MocoSpace’s Winning Formula for Feature-Phone Social Networking

5/20/09Follow @wroush

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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 »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.wirelesswarriorblog.com Marty Keene

    Love the comments about the way carriers work internally…so true and I worked for Vodafone and its true!! :-)

    Still like to know if Moco will go to a paid or premium user model at some point as just don’t think there is enough many in advertising…and users will pay for mobile services if you ask

    Marty

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  • Jake aka jdtwentysix, jaydee26, twentysix

    I have been a member at mocospace for three years, and while this review paints the picture of a youth orientated friendly site, I do not believe that to be the case.
    Firstly, when I first signed up there, a culture of anything goes seemed to exist, especially within the forums.
    Moco chatters called it “roasting” and long drawn out chat fights were the order of the day.
    I have always been a forum chatter more than a blogger, and I was attracted to the site for it’s forums primarily. At first I chatted in General, but later I became a regular in the life problems forum.
    As a gay man, I often felt persecuted, but the friends I had made kept me coming back. That is no longer the case.
    The people in life problems forum form cliques, and target individual members for fun. That has been going on for a long time. I am a popular target, and whether I am online there or not, you will never visit that forum without seeing people chatting about me nastily, posting my photo’s that they stole from my accounts there, and impersonating me. I get called faggot everytime I log in. The word is not censored.
    The report system is a joke.
    If a number of people dislike you and report you, you’ll be deleted no matter how many times you report them back.
    To justin and jamie, it’s all about the numbers.
    And while I am on the subject of numbers, that 6 million users figure is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. When a culture of “roasting” “trolling” and “fake profile making” exists so obviously there, it should be factored in. Precious few mocospace users retain just a single account. There are currently around 13 fake profiles there that were signed up purely to impersonate me.
    Additionally, every time the life problems group gets me deleted they steal my old profile and impersonate me. I would say that mocospace would be lucky to have one million genuine active users, the rest are fake profiles.
    As evidenced by the low participation in genuine forum debates. Ask any long term user and they will tell you the same thing. Mocospace user numbers are dwindling, not growing.
    The personal information posted there is also worrying. I get deleted habitually, but the fake profiles of me do not. Whatever information I have ever divulged in the forum is used against me, and I have had certain people there “investigate” me, posting photo’s, my full name, and other information they found about me off-site, with absolutely no ramifications.
    You would think if you reported a fake profile that was using your photo, your name, and pretending to be you it would be deleted, but sadly that isn’t the case.
    Admin only reacts to harassment if they receive multiple reports from multiple IP addresses. It’s very biased against minorities who are more likely to be targeted in the first place.
    Every time I have been deleted I have attempted to contact Justin and Jamie directly with these issues, and been ignored. I think, and its just my opinion, that unless you are an attractive female they are just not interested in protecting your civil liberties on mocospace.
    I am very angry about all of this, obviously. But I am not the only one. My friends there are leaving in droves. At this rate I predict mocospace will not last the distance. The only people who manage to keep an account are bullies and internet trolls. They act as an angry mob and only then do J&J or admin do anything.
    At that point they usually delete the victim of the harassment because it’s all about the numbers.
    Lastly, they have recently introduced a moco gold feature, where users are encouraged to spend real dollars on “gold” which can then be used to activate a group of features. The features include an option to see who is viewing your profile, and an option to be in invisible or busy status when online. Both these features appeal to users who are being harassed by other chatters, for obvious reasons. I have purchased amounts of gold to access these features, only to log in the next day and find my account deleted. On one such account, I did not even USE that username in the forum, much less do anything that conflicted with their terms and conditions. Yet a group of users still managed to report it and get it deleted. It seems like a money-making scheme to me, and a dishonest one at that. They shouldn’t sell people moco gold if they are going to delete their accounts without so much as a warning a few days later.

  • Jake aka jdtwentysix, jaydee26, twentysix

    I forgot to add, and I think it’s interesting to note, that the majority of the people reporting me were older than I am. Their ages range from 35 – 50. Additionally, there are to many scam artists, including one 47 yo South African woman I have personally witnessed phishing in Life Problems forum, and receiving jewellry and other stolen goods as a result. Youth orientated? I think not. But scam orientated? Most definitely. On my first account, which I put a lot of effort into keeping updated, rarely a day went by when I did not receive inboxes from nigerian princesses and the like, wanting me to transfer goods and money mule style. They include an off-site yahoo email usually, and god only knows how many mocospace users they have taken in. Yet when I report those profiles not even THOSE get deleted.

  • Dustin

    The site is a joke it’s not real

  • Lindsay

    I think this is horrible because someone is pretending to be me on this stupid network. You people should put up security measures! I can’t even delete the profile because I don’t have a password…
    You better fix it

  • Lindsay

    I will definately go to press with this if it is not sorted out soon. It is disturbing, the information they have about me. I want no part in this digusting site. I’ve read other comments about this site and am not impressed neither comforted. It seems nothing gets done about the fake profiles. This is going public

  • Aries

    This site is great as far as games, forums and the chat rooms but its so nerve wrecking when it comes to cyber bullying…Justin and Jamie do not investigate the reports they been sent…instead they receive and determine who they want to have their profiles…I have encountered having false reports in me, being harassed daily, having my profile hacked into, my personal information in chat rooms, threats, etc….its utterly ridiculous and and JnJ need to actually look unto reports about online bullying…they are so behind that this site do not take this matter seriously but they have no problem banning the victims pages and rewarding the bullies by staying online no matter how many times they get reported…I wouldn’t recommend this site to no one.