The other day I downloaded some mobile app I was referred to called Ditto. If you haven’t heard of it, all you really need to know is that it’s for groups of people to schedule get-togethers or something like that. For the purposes of understanding where I’m going with this, its specific purpose doesn’t really matter.
Aside from crashing every time I tried to use it (an issue that has since been fixed), my main thought was, “I can sort of do this already on Facebook or Twitter, or even over email or text.”
Keywords: Sort of.
Just as actors go to Hollywood in hopes of being discovered or writers go to New York hoping to grace the pages of GQ or Vogue, it seems more and more developers are creating mobile apps with the sole intention of being bought by an already-established social network. These apps aren’t too spectacular by their lonesome selves, but the technologies could add a certain oomph to existing, more well-known and frequently used services.
You can tell sometimes by just picking one of these apps up. The concept behind Ditto (“making plans with a group”), for example, has some potential. But perhaps not on its own. Why would I open a separate app to make plans when I can already use a more mainstream technology that most people use? My groups are already in place, and they aren’t on Ditto.
Lots of these niche apps have similar looks and feels to the more mainstream social services we’ve all come to know and love, and sometimes hate. These aren’t bad applications, but the developers must – have – to understand that these services will never reach a critical mass of users. Instead, these apps are their tickets to the bigtime.
Consider the case of Beluga, the answer to BlackBerry Messenger for phones that aren’t BlackBerrys. The technology is slick, but I doubt Beluga on its own was never going to have mass appeal. Plus, most people hate caviar. Facebook bought the company a few weeks ago, and it would appear that, somewhere down the line, Facebook Groups are going to become better because of an app named after a type of whale.
Ditto looks an awful lot like Foursquare, and would be a great add-on (Foursquare shifts from “check-in service” to “make plans and check-in service”). An app called Where, which delivers information about popular places to users based on their location, resembles that of Yelp and could be a great component to that already popular places-ratings service.
These niche apps fill a similar hole that some of the now-official mainstream social media mobile apps did years ago. The official Twitter app was originally called Tweetie, created by a developer who made millions (probably) off the sale. Similar with Tumblr’s mobile app, which was built here in Richmond and was so good that it eventually became the blogging service’s official iPhone, BlackBerry and Android app. (Thanks in part to that little app, Tumblr now has an official office – and employees with good-paying jobs – here in the Virginia capital.)
To keep technology moving along and evolving, “Developing to be Bought” is a great trend. But what’s it going to take to make something truly original, that we haven’t seen before? Will we ever see another truly new, stand-alone social network? If so, what will it look like?
We will see another true social network, for sure. And someone out there working on it as I write this knows exactly how it’ll change everything.