MocoSpace’s Winning Formula for Feature-Phone Social Networking
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more open. So we will stream video and also offer downloads in the 3GP format [a strreamlined version of the MP4 video format, designed for mobile phones] It’s still a very fragmented experience. We try to detect, as best we can, the capabilities of each person’s phone and the restrictions that their network puts in place, and offer up the optimized experience.
X: What kind of optimizing can you do?
Jamie Hall: We do some user interface optimization—for example, if you’ve used MocoSpace on the iPhone or the Android G1 phone we do some optimization around navigation. But it’s mostly around videos and photos. Because of the huge amount of fragmentation in the mobile browser market, there are all kinds of bugs and idiosyncrasies. One of our core areas of expertise is in working around that, since from day one we wanted to attract the broadest possible audience.
X: The first time we talked back in January 2008, you explained that with MocoSpace, unlike your earlier ventures in the mobile business, you specifically wanted to avoid working directly with the wireless carriers, given all the hassles of being on deck. But now that you’re more established and have such a big user base, I wonder whether the carriers are actually coming to you—and whether you’d be open to working with one, if they said they wanted to put you on their deck.
JH: There are different buckets of people at the carriers. The operations guys, the engineers, will look at MocoSpace much sooner. They just see the raw traffic numbers, and they see that it may be, for example, the third largest driver of traffic on their network, and they say “You guys should absolutely be on our deck.” The product guys will say, “Yeah, it should be on the deck, if it’s optimized for us.” But then you have the senior-level marketing guys, who will say ‘We’ve heard of MySpace and Facebook but we’ve never heard of MocoSpace. So why would we do that deal?”
But at the end of the day, the carriers are huge businesses, with billions of dollars a year in revenue…so even the MySpaces and Facebooks have limited clout. These guys are making so much money off their data plans that they are going to do just fine with us or without us.
JS: There are a lot of constraints from being on deck, but there are also some benefits, like co-marketing. We would welcome it, but we don’t aggressively pursue it. A company that gets most of its traffic from relationships with T-Mobile or Verizon is much less valuable than a company that gets most of its business from direct relationships with consumers. T-Mobile or AT&T can change their deck around and drop a partner on a whim, but if you have 6 million users reaching out to you directly it’s harder for any one person to damage your business.
JH: And it speaks to your business when users choose to come to you [over the mobile Web] rather than just having your app on the deck.
X: You introduced the music downloads and videos recently. What other milestones have you reached since we last talked?
JH: One is that we soft-launched our Latino site, aimed at Spanish-speaking U.S. residents. Even before we launched that, we were over-indexing [meaning, seeing higher-than expected participation] on some ethnic groups, including Latinos and African-Americans.
Beyond that, we’ve done some unique content stuff. We have thousands of people a day uploading photos, primarily from their phones, so we’ve developed some unique customization tools that people can use to create slide shows with different transition effects. We also moved all of our photo and video storage to the cloud, using Amazon’s S3 database.
X: Was that a cost-cutting move?
JH: Yes, we have an EMC storage device that is a six-figure expense. We could see the end of that device’s lifetime coming very quickly and we did not want to … Next Page »
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