Thursday, May 28, 2009

Friendster Yesterday, Facebook Today, Sandbox Tomorrow?

The online space called the Internet saw a deluge of social networking sites ever since MySpace and Friendster dominated the industry a few years ago. Big social networking names such as Hi5 and Multiply followed suit. Today, we have Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and the newest talk of the town - Sandbox.

Many other social networking sites tried to replicate the successful business models but not everyone succeeded. Only a few were able to establish their own marks filling a specialized need in the market.

Friendster Yesterday

Undoubtedly, Friendster started the social networking craze in the Philippines. With a catchy phrase that obviously pertains to connecting friends online, Friendster became a local household name among teenagers which were evidently the early adapters of the concept and the technology involved. It also appealed to adults after the 'friends' connection enabled them to find long lost friends and acquaintances online. People in their prime found their old classmates on the web and used the social network to catch up on each other. Even overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their relatives at home found it to be a good tool to remain in contact and keep updated.

A more recent and another local success story would be Multiply whose easy-to-use photo album, I believe, catapulted it to success. Being a nation with a penchant for on-the-spot photography and camera shooting instincts, Multiply was able to tick that shutter-lovin' soul of the Filipinos. The same photo album features were eventually utilized by small-sized local entrepreneurs. They found online selling to be a viable business which levels the playing field against big established companies.

Facebook Today

Zoom in today, for some reason, everyone seems to be in Facebook. Either you love it or you hate it. I actually belong to those who don't love it (but don't want to say I hate it...because I use it too, albeit reluctantly). I have a problem with its interface, I don't feel comfortable with the navigation scheme.

For someone who is technologically well-exposed, there are times I can't easily find simple tasks I wanted to do. But since most of my friends are on Facebook, I am somehow obliged to be in it as well for communication and networking purposes.

Sandbox Tomorrow?

And now, a new name is making a-buzz in the online community - Sandbox. It is actually funny to note that Sandbox has a right side-bar ad placement in Facebook a few weeks ago, come to think that it is comparable to services like facebook but with online store. Last week, the local television commercial (TVC) promoting Sandbox, together with print ads, were also released as a portal and social networking service by Smart, the Philippines' biggest mobile telecommunication company in terms of subscriber base.

Sandbox is an online portal where you could connect with other users, share photos, discuss in forums and other functions commonly found in social networking sites. It also has features that enable the registered user to download music and games for a fee, while some for free. Think of services like friendster but with online store and some more.

While it succeeds in the portal-like-interface complete with the "Tunes", "MovieMania", "Games", and "TV/Video" sections, it has a number of major navigational and functional issues within the social networking aspect embodied in the "My Groups" section. There's just so much of it and this article will not even dare cover them. Being in the software industry myself just makes me think if there even is a quality assurance team for the Mostyle platform where the technology was based. Moreover, a support system for new users should be readily visible in the site.

I would like to point out, however, areas of potential for Sandbox.

  1. Mobility - this is its strongest arm, like being able to upload photos to your web account in real-time. Being in mobile telecommunications industry, Smart should intensely leverage on the user's mobile experience by continuing to improve and seamlessly integrate the desktop browser functions to the phone's mobile browsers - An area where other social networks have not fully explored.
  2. Local Content - just like what they are doing now, it should continue to provide local content to maintain its edge over other international-based social networking sites and portals.
  3. New Services / Applications - Coming up with the usual functions the other social networks have will just make Sandbox 'like the rest'. Why not be a step ahead and come up with something fantastic to gain a good slice of the market share.

Future enhancements will include chat engines, video uploads and email integration, among others. The portal has a great potential of achieving its intention of having "all content and services you love on the web all in one place [Sandbox FAQ]," however, it has a lot of cleaning up to do in the social networking area - design and function-wise.
It would be interesting to watch how Sandbox will continue to evolve in time and carve its position in the myriad of portals and social networking sites we have today.

So will Sandbox be the social networking king of tomorrow? Time will tell, but certainly not today, at least not just yet.

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