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Features vs. Users

As @DaveWiner, tweeted about twitter's innovation stalling because it closed its API than open it, another friend of mine emailed me asking about which Social Bookmarking service I use.

Concept of what Bloozle was
To put it in context, in 2008-9, I too had started to build a social bookmarking application Bloozle, which was aimed at sharing links (bookmarks) by users, tagging them (to create 'folksonomies), enable sharing and finally presenting a technology curated 'magazine' for end users to browse.

What we envisaged as bloozle, is today available as a combination of Twitter / Facebook based link sharing (with #hashtags acting as tags) and Flipboard based 'curation' of those links for you to read.

Long story short - this friend of mine was a part of the team for Bloozle and hence, we share the love to hate Twitter-Flipboard combo for 'stealing' away our success! :-)

My friend commented (sic)- "i am just back on delicious and find it way better than twitter or facebook even now for researching and studying on the internet." Valid point - there are several features which Twitter / Facebook link sharing lack to be used as effective Social Bookmarking services.

For example, Twitter/ Facebook do a pretty good job at broadcast (twitter) or targetted (facebook) sharing of links, they do not provide effective methods of tagging and categorization. The 'preview' which they display is default, and it is not possible to 'quote' a particular part of an article (or a particular segment of a video) in the preview that gets shared. Twitter's 140 character limit makes it harder to 'comment' on the links; the newsfeed style of display is not particularly suited for rapid browsing the consumption ..... I can go on about why Twitter and Facebook suck at Social Bookmarking features.

However, the bottomline is, there are more people on Twitter than Delicious (the Social Bookmarking app / website), even though using it for social bookmarking is more of a 'hack' than a feature. What can I do of the advanced link-sharing features, if I can't consume links from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Taylor Swift, Paolo Coelho and Amitabh Bachchan and there is no point of sharing my blog post on Delicious if some of my friends can't consume it there!

It's similar to saying that, as an artist, while Baroda is a great city to live, given the cost vs. time trade offs and will offer you a more creative lifestyle, but you'd still choose to be in Bombay because that's where the art circuit is (there's Kala Ghoda, Bollywood, TV, media houses etc.)  and hence you are able to interact with more likeminded people here. So you give up the luxury of low cost and high time to live in Bombay.

And so I am staying with Twitter and Flipboard combination. Twitter is my bloozler and Flipboard is my bloozpaper. It works - its functional; though there are features I'd desire in them, but without users those features are useless. so having users is more imp than features. IMHO!

So, even though Dave Winer is correct that if Twitter itself would have kept its API open, several 'features' could have been developed on it by third party developers but since it already had a critical mass of users prior to closing down the API, it didn't matter much!

That's one hard truth most consumer startups will have to digest - a superior product without user traction is a failure! 

Your next door neighbour may not be techie enough, he may have an inferior product but if s/he has a rich uncle or knows a VC or lives in the US where funding is easier to get and s/he can fund user acquisition through TV adverts or Google Ads or door-to-door selling or any other means - they are better placed to 'disrupt' the market than you who has superior technical knowledge or better 'product ideas'!

This also has a subtle 'philosophical' meaning - your product is an enabler for superior experience for the end user. But your product alone is not the cause of that superior user experience. For consumer startups, especially those reliant on network effects, the number of users you have is an integral part of the user experience. And so, unless you find out ways of user acquisition; there is no way you are going to succeed.

While this may not be true for B2B startups in the absolute sense, but the importance of having user traction can't be belittled for any business - whether consumer or business facing.

Photo credit:


  1. Hey dude,
    Am I the anonymous friend ?
    Please link me -
    when you have time.
    I still find better topical links on delicious.
    if i wish to learn mechanical design :
    I find much better links on delicious as compared to twitter.


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