If you are like me who seems to have reached the fatigue level when it comes to identical featured social networks then you will surely identify with the YAWN at the end of the title. If not then please ignore the YAWN.. But there is one more reason for the YAWN than just the boredom aspect of seeing one more social network with nothing phenomenally new launch.. Well CS reported last night about itimes soft launch. itimes has been in the works for ages and as far as I am concerned the outcome isn’t pretty. That is why the title “tries to launch”!
So Indiatimes finally jumps on to the social bandwagon with a badly designed and haphazardly launched social network. Why do I call it haphazardly launched? Well I tried signing up twice but I just couldn’t (It gave me an Ooops error twice). Even when I got lucky the third time they made me verify my email address twice! Also they didn’t let me login with firstname.lastname@example.org which is the email id I created.. But then i realised this platform still lives in the era where username doesn’t mean email address!! Too bad I guess gmail has spoilt my habits!
Ok once inside the platform I am a bit relieved to see good use of AJAX to do things in a faster way also the use of third party content in games and applications by which you can add third party content. So its quite a shift from the older mentality of I-own-my-content-and-we-wont-allow-other-publishers-to-even-get-a-mention (think rediff!). Also there is an entire itimes email account inside your account for you to manage your mails. It seems like itimes is Indiatimes’ attempt to create a Facebook for India (features like moods, marketplace etc are ripped off directly from Facebook) where a user can network, share, play games and use email as well. This probably would explain the need to open API from day one.
Overall itimes does seem like a product which tries very hard to be a “Cool” web 2.0 product but in its current avatar it falls flat on its face. CS pointed out that the differentiator for this social network would be the user traction provided Indiatimes gives a media push but that would happen even if my Grandmom would create a social network and Indiatimes were to back it! If just spending money on offline/online publicity was a differentiator then every media company with a listed stock and extra cash would pump money into a social network and make it big. Though some are trying hard I’m very circumspect about the outcome.
In conclusion it does seem that media companies fail miserably when trying their hand at technology. Even internationally most of the web successes have been powered by tech graduates or companies be it MYSpace, Facebook, flickr, Orkut etc. The media companies came in later to buy out or be a part of the action. In India the scene has been on the contrary as content portals which are typically media publishers are trying to build technology, features and applications.