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Why social browsing as a startup idea needs to die


Another day, another new social browsing service. Mashable reports on the launch of Socialbrowse, a Y Combinator funded service that offers social browsing. Despite Doriano “Paisano” Carta arguing (and I don’t know how) that somehow this is a “unique” service, it’s not even close. It’s yet another entrant in a space that goes back to the first web boom, and has had so many entrants I nearly crashed Firefox with the tabs I had opened on just the ones I could find that have launched in the last two years.

For those not familiar with the idea, the general theme of social browsing services is to offer shared surfing and sharing. That might be delivered by a plugin, or be native to the site, and it may or may not included a friends list or broader community recommendations. Often there’s a live element, so you view the same page at the same time as a friend, and lately that’s included a chat functionality as well…and I may have even seen one that included video.

Not all social browsing services are the same, and some are better than others. Me.dium is fairly impressive, and I had a play with Browzmi earlier this year. Although I didn’t write about Browzmi, it was only due to my inability to not completely trash the underlying idea, even if the implementation (which didn’t involve a plugin) was solid.

With Socialbrowse, the only point of differentiation I could spot is that they’ve copied Twitter and added microblogging to the list…because the world lacks microblogging sites, or something like that.

YooNo, a Cluztr or Swarm may result in a Reko, but a Me.dium to well done Slingpage delivered in Browzmi may compete with Flock, but Thatsmymouse isn’t half a Ginza Walk, and even eBay is trying to flog Stumbleupon. PS: that’s only the recent list.

At its root, the idea of social browsing, particularly at a time social networking is more popular than ever and we connect in new and different ways, should be a good idea, at least so you’d think. And yet, StumbleUpon and Flock aside, both of which don’t embrace the shared surfing/ buddy experience typical in many of the others, there hasn’t be a major break out in 10 years. The reality is, people don’t want to surf webpages with other people, not at least in large enough numbers to sustain one of these startups, let alone dozens. Social browsing services are chasing a market that on the whole doesn’t exist beyond a niche play, and most of these services are not going to make it.

What I do find staggering though is that new ones keep popping up, and better still with funding. Are VC’s so bereft of investment ideas that they continue to back one of the oldest ideas in the playbook over and over again? Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Social browsing as a new startup idea needs to die. There may room for a small, unfunded startup to sustain something close to a real business, or one or two slightly bigger player from the existing services, but for everyone else, there isn’t room at the inn. Many may have chuckled at the 4th or 5th social browsing startup, but now it’s just getting plain stupid. Enough! Please! :-)

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9 Responses to “Why social browsing as a startup idea needs to die”

  1. Xavier

    Well, it needs to die just as much as “creating yet one more tech-centered blog”.
    See what I mean ?

  2. Regan Fletcher

    Kudos for getting so many company names into one sentence! Kind of reminds me of the results of a 70s game show. Social browsing, social discovery, social aggregation… a lot of terms that ultimately mean nothing outside of our little bubble of a world. The end game is delivering an easy and useful tool to a guy in Mississippi who's never heard of “social networking” or “social media” but just knows all his friends are on MySpace and wants to better connect with them.
    Yoono is going to be releasing something very cool next month we believe will give users yet another reason not to switch to Flock and to stick with their trusted browser. You should see it in about 3-4 weeks.

  3. Bill

    That wasn't so much a review as it was an indication that you are suffering from social media burn out. perhaps you should take some time and unplug for a while. Saying something like this is to say, We have 2 flavors of ice cream vanilla and chocolate why do we need strawberry and butter pecan? Sometimes you just want a nice cone of Rocky Road y'know?

  4. thattalldude

    I love finding new links to great reads online, and I like knowing about them as fast as possible, and as EASILY as possible. I also don't want it to be too hard to share something, especially if I'm the first one to share it. SocialBrowse makes it amazingly easy to share, and I have a steady stream of new links, if it looks interesting, into a new tab it goes, and I'll read it when I get to it. When I share, I place it in a category, and that's it. No tagging, no description write up, that's it.

    If i could narrow everything down into the 3 best sources I have for great content that I wouldn't have found without sharing it, they would be (in order): Socialbrowse, Twitter, Mixx.

  5. chestyle

    OK, so I agree that most of these services will die, but ones that don't will be successful. You haven't really supplied enough arguments to prove that 'social browsing will die'. except the 'people want to surf their porn alone' . Twitter and digg clones are popping up like mushrooms after the rain for quite a while now, and some of them are really successful.
    Social Browsing is sweet, sharing and commenting is a click away. Black PR is still PR…

  6. DanSims

    Most of the sites you mention on here don’t even offer the same functionality as SocialBrowse (now Qwisk).

    Did you have a bad experience on the service to bash it so hard and use examples that don’t make sense?

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