Recently, it seems to be a fight for this “third position” on billboards and advertisements for mobile-social startups. First and second are almost always Facebook and Twitter; the third is typically a random mix of apps relevant to the business promoting the advertisement. While many would say the third might regularly be Google+ (which is getting better by the day), others have started placing their bets in other up-and-coming companies.
One that grabbed my attention the other day was, Pinterest.com There was their logo, sitting nice and pretty next to the social leaders and it was a surprise to me as Pinterest is relatively new. It’s been argued to be one of the fastest growing start-ups in Silicon Valley but even I–as an engineer and early adopter of technology–don’t find myself itching to login to Pinterest on a daily basis (as an update from January 2013, I still rarely login). It’s more a once in a month kinda thing (the type of website where you’re like, “oh gosh, what’s my password again”).
Another interesting 3rd “follow me here” choice was Waze.com These are the guys who build the social GPS app which tells a user what’s near them all while at the same time leading them to their destination–like a TomTom or Garmin GPS. This was from a Starbucks banner so it makes sense that someone driving may want to alleviate their caffeine high quickly at a Starbucks drive thru.
For me, I’ve recently started to think about within which new technologies am I spending most of my time and a big one is Whatsapp.com This is a mobile app that allows you to send texts freely and easily via their instant messenger-type UI. Different from email in that it is highly informal, with emoticons being used much of the time, but it also becomes very easy to share photos, videos and other media right then and there with your close friends (or at least someone with whom you’d share your cellphone number).
Considering this software, I thought to myself, “I’m communicating a lot, I can chat on the go, I can share photos and videos of what’s going on around me, I can help people meet up with me using their ‘share location’ feature, this is becoming like a personal mini Facebook.” Sharing with only a few people, certain bits of information, relevant to them at a particular time. Very interesting and compelling software.
Considering Facebook’s mobile push and how many other big players are investing heavily in mobile, it will be interesting to see which app or website ultimately pans out to maintain and secure that currently confused third spot. Whatsapp is a strong choice but maybe that is not how people want to interact with a company. It may constantly stay in turmoil, but the one thing I can guarantee is that when it becomes clear who will maintain that 3rd spot, I’ll Whatsapp my friends about it for sure.
Update from Jan 2013:
Now that I no longer live in Madrid, Spain, usage of Whatsapp is minimal by Americans. It’s clear that the cellphone cost structure (payments for minutes, data and text messages) is so radically different that it changes the use case. Regardless, Whatsapp still beautifully meshes the pretty text messaging interface on iPhones to the more kluge messaging system provided by Android. I still push people to download and install Whatsapp on their phones, but they’re hesitant and don’t understand why. Get some international friends people and stay connected that way!!