In support of Fragmentation

There seems to be some correlation between Twitter and Pownce usage lately. Looking at Alexa for the past month, the two have similar trends of up and down reach. It’s possible the time period and sample is just too small to reach any conclusions but it might also be that there is a great deal of overlap between the two services, which makes sense. It also seems to show that Pownce has not taken users away from Twitter as the modest decline started before Pownce launched.

Muhammad Saleem post on the Pronet Advertising blog “Me-Too Mentality is Bad for Users, Marketers, and Startups” uses microblogging as an example of sites copying each other with little to differentiate them causing market fragmentation. I agree with most of the points made about the lack of unique features and the lack of interoperability for users (Jaiku does make it easy to mix and match with their feed feature). What I completely disagree is the conclusion. It is the fundamental nature of free markets to offer competing services which are many times identical and there are good reasons to do it now.

Microblogging, social-texting, mini social networks, IM+, or whatever you want to call the space (I like micro blogging) is very new and still evolving. The current features are based on what users expect to get from such a service, leaving innovation to the second round of implementation. Jaiku is actually delivering new and unique features faster than others, but they have the “advantage” of not being as successful as Twitter and Pownce, and having to deal less with scale than functionality.

As someone who has been actively working in the space for over a year, I’ve gone through many business models and plans trying to differentiate Nouncer from the rest. What many people miss is the enormous task of building the required infrastructure for this. MySpace cannot offer everything Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce offer simply because the technology to support that many active users is not available yet. Twitter has publicly claimed their intention to building a world-class messaging platform, and Nouncer attempts a similar goal (with a very different approach and technologies). You need the basic plain functions to get a momentum but once you get some exposure, scale will slow you down to a stop.

It will take about a year for these services to better balance between keeping up to taking leadership with new features and ideas. It might take longer for the industry to figure out how to make money off it (see my upcoming post “Waiting for Google”). But eventually this space will be another valuable tool people use in their connected lives and what seems like a clone now, can turn out to be a market leader down the road. There are hundreds of social networks, but only few are big, and you need enough fragmentation before you can attempt consolidation.