Techcrunch (a very influential Tech blog) profiled FriendFeed today and mentioned Spokeo as a competitor. I am not sure what FriendFeed does since it is still in private beta. I would however, like to clarify Spokeo’s value proposition as a friend tracker, and what makes it different from other social network aggregators.
There are already thousands of social networks, and the number keeps increasing. As pioneered by Spokeo back in Nov 2006, people are beginning to build tools that organize this plethora of social media. These tools are loosely categorized by bloggers as "social network aggregators"; however, they all have different approaches and purposes.
Most of these tools are "profile aggregators", such as ProfileLinker, ProfileBuilder, and Profilactic. They let you aggregate different profiles from the social networks you use, manage them in a dashboard, and share these identities through an embeddable widget. In other words, these profile aggregators let you consolidate and show all your online identities.
A couple aggregators have attempted to build social networks around these consolidated identities, such as SocialURL and MyLifeBrand. Now you can message, leave comments, share links, and interact with members in the same community. Basically, they are building social networks on top of existing social networks.
The list of social network aggregators doesn’t stop here. Fuser (I personally use this service) consolidates your messaging accounts from Yahoo, Gmail, MySpace, and Facebook. Spock, Wink, and YoName let you search friends from different social networks. As people spend more time online, they will need tools to help them organize their online social life. Consequently, we will see more social network aggregators popping up.
Now, how does Spokeo differ from these services? Spokeo is a specialized friend tracker that tells you what your friends are doing on the Web. We are not about managing profiles, or socializing with other members, or consolidating all of your different accounts. On Spokeo, you see your friends’ latest updates, and then you are immediately led to the original sites to interact with them. You can’t network on Spokeo, we don’t want you to.
Why? We believe that reading should be separate from social interactions. Most of time, we just want to read about what’s going on in our circles. We don’t want to be bothered by all the friend requests, messages, and wall comments. As an analogy, when you want to read a book or newspaper, would you rather be in your living room or in a night club? I guess some of you can sit still and read a book while cute girls or guys are dancing around you, but most of us want a little privacy. By keeping the social elements out, Spokeo provides an exclusive, private, and safe environment for you to browse your friends’ latest blogs, photos, and videos.
Lastly, a Techcrunch’s reader commented on what was the use of these social network aggregators, since she and her friends only use Facebook. Well, my answer is, IF she has friends elsewhere, she needs Spokeo. That is a big IF (hence capitalized), but we are working on a secret functionality (launching in a week) that will make the IF statement into a definite one. How are we going to do it? Well, I will keep my mouth shut for now; after all, it’s a secret