I have been approached by four social bookmarking sites for reviews; however instead of writing individual reviews, it makes sense to do a sweeping scan of this entire space, hence this round up post.
If the essence of Web2.0 is social sharing, websites like Digg, Del.icio.us etc are at the forefront of this new web paradigm. They are popular because they function as antidotes to the internetâ€™s biggest problem â€“ its unbridled vastness and ever growing nature. These sites serve two specific purposes- (a) aggregating the internet content through shared bookmarking and (b) filtering that content, to isolate the most popular amongst the shared bookmarks.
A bunch of Indian social bookmarking sites have sprung up and I think, they are slowly gaining traction. I assert this because, many of the reviews that I write on Webyantra get bookmarked on these sites and contribute fairly significant traffic to this blog. Almost all the sites that are being reviewed here (except IndiaMarks) have adopted Diggâ€™s basic design as a benchmark, with traces of innovative features peppered here and there. In my opinion, there are three distinct factors, that are crucial to the success of a social bookmarking site.
1) the content on the site,
2) how the siteâ€™s design aids discoverability and findability of that content,
3) and the siteâ€™s aesthetics, usability, look/feel etc.
This review will attempt to explore how the sites fare along these dimensions.
NewsCola- This site has been launched by RHR Networks, the Bangalore based startup that runs Bixee, Pixrat, Glogblog etc. The fact that Pixrat happens to be the first Indian website to be TechCrunched, inherently raises my expectations from the RHR team. I had a detailed chat with RHRâ€™s Himanshu Nautiyal, when NewsCola was launched; he shared his perspective of the Indian social bookmarking space and how they would like to differentiate by being a â€˜newsâ€™ bookmarking site. I love the name NewsCola- it is very catchy and seems very apt for a news site. Though, I personally feel that NewsCola (by focusing on news, instead of interesting stories) is taking a fairly radical approach to social bookmarking, for the Digg style voting interface is not best suited for news. Newscolaâ€™s interface seems to be inspired by Reddit. The siteâ€™s design makes for easy discoverability and it has a clean, Web2.0ish look. The site was launched just 2-3 weeks back and so its still early to assess how it is performing.
HumDigg: This site has been around for 3-4 months and seems to be getting sparing traffic currently. I like the siteâ€™s design in terms of its discoverability but the content on the site doesnâ€™t seem India focused. Which inherently undermines the basic reason behind the siteâ€™s existence. Why should I go to HumDigg to read non India specific content? Should I rather not go to Digg for that? Something that reflects poorly on the siteâ€™s creators is the fact that this site is anonymous. I looked around on the site but found no references to the identity of the siteâ€™s promoters, except a one line pointer to something (maybe a company) called M9 (reminds me of MI6).
IndianPad: This site has been around for more than six months and probably gets the most traffic at this stage. While the websiteâ€™s name is fairly indistinctive, itâ€™s design is excellent from the standpoint of discoverability. It also has some pretty innovative features like this cool mashup of user lists with GoogleMaps, the ability to upload audio files, ability for users to put their Google ads on IndianPad and earn ad revenues, innovative tag/story clouds etc. So far so good. What I DON’T like about IndianPad is the fact that it has a very active adult/porn section (something thatâ€™s totally unnecessary for a site of this nature). Take a look at the livecast section; one distinctly gets the impression that IndianPad is cunningly using adult content to drive traffic to its site. Now, this is what I would call â€˜hitting below the beltâ€™. And quite conveniently enough, the site is anonymous- there is not a shred of mention anywhere about its creators. Overall I think, the creators of IndianPad, by including adult/porn content on the site, are doing THEMSELVES a great disfavour and tarnishing the site’s image.
IndiaMarks: This site is from Better Labs (a Pune/Silicon Valley startup) and is the only site, that has not adopted the popular Digg style voting mechanism. I like its basic look/feel, but I think it needs to improve from the standpoint of discoverability. The content on the site, while being quite technology centric, doesnâ€™t seem India specific and I see that causing a diffusion in its focus. I think the siteâ€™s approach is a refreshing departure from the Digg fixation; Iâ€™ll be interested to know what others think of this.
IndiaGram: This site is run by these three guys. It largely has India specific content and probably gets a fair degree of traffic as well. There is some distinctiveness about its visual look/feel but the site needs to improve from a discoverability standpoint. I think the site should try to add some innovative features, to give it a greater ‘grip’ over its users.
PutVote: This is a recent entrant to this space. I searched on the site but couldnâ€™t find any reference to its creators. Whoever it is, he/she sure does have a cool sense of humour. You canâ€™t miss the kinky language on its â€˜aboutâ€™ page. I find this site quite promising. It has a distinctive look & feel, it scores well on the discoverability front and the content seems India specific (in fact, specific to South India, rather Chennai in particular). Watch out for this site in future!
Forums Of India: This site is from a Chicago based company called Oviya Technologies, which is run by an Indian software professional. It has separate sections for articles, videos & forums which gets split at the homepage itself. I am not sure if this is a good idea from a userâ€™s perspective. The siteâ€™s content is largely India centric but it doesnâ€™t seem to be getting much traffic currently.
Updated on 23/8/06
I tried to do a split of how many of the eight sites reviewed in this post, are India based and how many are from NRIs. Hereâ€™s what my best guess is (and it might be wrong!)-
NewsCola – the RHR guys are Bangalore based
HumDigg – anonymous site, but I think (donâ€™t ask me why) it must be an NRI
IndianPad – anonymous site, but again my hunch is that, it must be an NRI
IndiaMarks – BetterLabs has offices in Pune/Silicon valley
IndiaGram – not sure but looks predominantly NRI to me
PutVote – seems to be a (resident Indian+NRI) team
ForumsOfIndia â€“ NRI based in Chicago
IndianBytes – seems like an NRI in Colorado,USA
And if the above is true, it shows that Indian Web2.0 sites are currently preoccupied with what economists describe as â€˜concept arbitrageâ€™. How I wish, they could shake off some of their Silicon Valley fixation and create original & innovative products .
(Just to understand how these sites are actually faring in terms of traffic, I plan to create accounts on each of them and bookmark this post. Iâ€™ll post the results of this â€˜testâ€™ as an update to this post, a week or two later.)