Posted by: Rob Hof on December 1, 2008
With what looks to be a fair amount of fanfare, a company virtually unknown in the U.S. is aiming to disrupt the fast-growing social networking business. Tonight, Rio de Janeiro-based Power.com, which already boasts 5 million registered users, is coming out of relative stealth to offer a way to view all your social networks and synchronize your friends, updates, photos, and everything else on all of them. The company’s tagline: “All your friends is one place.”
Eventually, that is. For now, Power.com supports Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, MSN Messenger, Orkut, and YouTube, but it hopes to add LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Skype and others soon. It has $2 million in funding raised last year from angel investors such as Esther Dyson and $6 million this year from the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
From the release, here’s how it works:
Users join by registering their social networks at Power.com. Their Power start page shows them all of their friends, messages, and content — from all their social networks, instant messengers, and email accounts — in one place. Updates, pictures of friends, messages that they’d see on Facebook show up next to ones they have on MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. Communities, birthdays, any social network features they choose, are all arranged by people — not by website — on their Power.com start page.
Once users log on to Power.com, they are automatically logged on everywhere that matters. They go from Power.com to their page on any one of their social networks with one click. Another click brings them to their page on another social network. One click also brings them back to Power.com, where they can simultaneously update the content of all their social pages. For example, they can browse their computer for their latest photos or videos, pick the ones they want, and — click — the pictures appear on all their personal pages at the same time.
If you’re familiar with Meebo, which lets you sign on to all your instant-messaging accounts from anywhere on the Web to chat, Power.com will be easy to grasp.
“We’re taking down the boundaries between social sites,” says CEO Steve Vachani, who told me that he doesn’t see the various efforts by Facebook, Google, MySpace and others to take their profile information to other sites as open enough to be all-inclusive.
Still, the idea isn’t unique, at least in broad outline, as a New York Times story tonight on Facebook Connect explains. Not to mention FriendFeed, which aggregates some social network updates but not instant messaging. And I tend to agree with Mike Arrington at TechCrunch that for now, at least, this will appeal mostly to social networking power users; while it’s simple to set up, putting all this information together can get a little dizzying, especially when single services such as MySpace and Facebook are already looking mighty cluttered all by themselves. Plus, I have to wonder if essentially scraping data from other services will run afoul of their terms of service, even if as Vachani notes, it’s the user allowing it.
Vachani brushes this aside in a followup email to me, in which I asked whether the mechanism for populating one’s Power.com page with information from various social networks involved Web frames, which are largely frowned upon:
This is not web frames. Its what we call Intelligent Proxy. A normal proxy collects information and passes that same information. An intelligent proxy gives us complete control to enhance site and add new functionality and features within the site or remix the site. This is a technology that we created. We do not face any of the problems faced by standard frames.
We do not face the technical problems of iframes. More importantly, we look exactly like a user from the sites perspective. Our system enters like a user, moves inside the site like a user. it is very difficult for them to do anything about this without hurting a lot of innocent users.
Business model? For now, it looks like Google AdSense and perhaps other ads (one of which brought up an error message saying I was “not authorized to view this page”). Vachani says he hopes he can offer advertisers more effective ads, especially ones that provide leads with information from one’s aggregated profile information (presumably OK’d by the user), rather than just clicks. But although he told me eventually he’d like to use data across all the sites Power.com aggregates to better target ads, that’s not in the immediate plans, no doubt because it will raise privacy concerns like Facebook’s Beacon did.
If Power.com can navigate these challenges, however, it may end up proving to be a very useful service at a time when the proliferation of social networks is getting to be too much even for the digerati.
Here is the company's list of "10 key social inter-networking features" Power.com offers, or promises to in the future:
1. Enjoy all your friends from your Facebook, Myspace, Google, MSN, and other sites, brought together in Power.com.
2. Read and respond to your messages from all your sites in one place at Power.com.
3. Enter and browse all your social network, email, and IM accounts simultaneously with one login at Power.com.
4. Use MSN Messenger inside your Facebook, Myspace, Hi5, and Orkut at Power.com (Yahoo Messenger, Gtalk, and AOL Buddy coming soon).
5. Send messages, photos, and videos to multiple friends simultaneously on all your sites, email, and IM from Power.com.
6. Access Facebook, Orkut, Hi5, or Myspace from blocked computers at work or school through Power.com.
7. Interact with with users from all social networks around the world in Power.com Chat rooms.
8. Use Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Facebook Mail, and work email together in one place at Power.com (coming soon).
9. Synchronize and manage all your photos, music, applications, blogs, and videos on all sites at Power.com (coming soon).
10. Add LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Blogger, and Skype to your Power.com start page (coming soon).