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They say that imitation ins the most sincere form of flattery and nowhere is that truer than on the internet.
As soon as "the next big thing" raises its head above the noise floor, it seems that every man and his dog tries to copy that success by reinventing the wheel.
Good examples of this are the way that webmail sites popped up almost overnight once Hotmail's success became apparent. Likewise the original ICQ spawned a host of imitators and pretenders.
Even the local scene is cluttered with "me too" clones of successful sites. Just look at all those auction sites that aren't TradeMe for instance.
Now while some of those "me too" sites have succeeded (just look at how YahooMail and GoogleMail have stolen most of HotMail's market share for instance) the vast majority have fallen by the wayside and disappeared.
There's a lesson to be learned there, but I fear that at least one Kiwi startup isn't paying attention.
Regular readers will know that I'm a strong proponent of Kiwi-based initiatives that bring innovation, dedication and inspiration to the table.So what is iYomu up to?
Well, according to media reports, this bold enterprise plans to "take on social networking giants Facebook and Myspace".
That's a pretty ambitious goal!
Just as HotMail spawned an army of functionally equivalent websites, so have Facebook and Myspace. What's going to may iYomu stand out from this crowd of "me too's"?
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I wonder if they've done their homework?
Do they know for sure that the "social networking" phenomenon isn't something peculiar to the younger generation? Do 25-55s actually want or need and (most importantly) will they be attracted to or use a social networking site built just for them?
The founders concede that "the target users tend to be busy with jobs and families and donít have much time, and they may also be unfamiliar with social networking websites" which perhaps doesn't bode well for the whole concept; does it?
Even more dubious is viability of their proposed $15-$35 per month fee to buy additional storage on the site. This rings alarm bells in my head.
Look carefully at all the really successful websites. What do they have in common?
Here's a clue: YahooMail tried to sell people extra storage space for their email and failed dysmally. Nobody wanted to pay for something that could be had elsewhere for free.
And that's probably going to be an issue with iYomu.
I'm not a FaceBook user but taking the "tour" of their website, one encounters this claim "Facebook lets you upload as many photo albums as you want" -- which seems to indicate that they're not going to try and sting you for the privilege of extra space.
YouTube also has no limit on user uploads and material on that site can be very easily referenced from other pages elsewhere on the Web. Why would people bother paying a hefty monthly stipend to iYomu when there are so many other places that provide storage for free and allow linking?
So what's the "killer feature" that iYomu will bring to the party? What will make 25-55 year-old's move from the sofa to the computer and spend their valuable time online at this website?
Well it's early days of course and the site may yet have an ace up its sleeve -- but I must admit to being worried that this has all the hallmarks of a "me too" website, and that's a shame.
I hate to see people pouring money, time and energy into something that appears to be missing the mark right from day one.
The situation is something akin to drafting a set of plans for an out-house and expecting to end up with a 12-bedroom mansion. If the plan isn't right, it doesn't matter how hard you work or how much you spend, you're not going to end up with what you expected.
Now I could be talking out a hole in my head and iYomu could take the world by storm (I sure hope so, NZ needs another pole to run its flag up on the web) but I fear that without a killer-feature, the odds are stacked against them.
So what do you think?
Most of Aardvark's readers are well-traveled web-browsers and have a pretty good feel for what's hot and what's not. Do *you* think that iYomu will have what it takes to create a whole new genre of social networking and catch the attention of its proposed target audience?
If you're between 25 and 55, do you consider "social networking" to be an attractive pastime -- or do you prefer to do other stuff on the Net?
What advice do you have for David Wolf-Rooney and Frances Valintine?
Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines