Take 5: Socialight Combines Mobile Location And Social Networking For Something New - InformationWeek

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4/11/2007
03:30 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Take 5: Socialight Combines Mobile Location And Social Networking For Something New

Welcome back to Take 5, my regular feature where I ask an industry insider five (or in this case six) questions about their company and the mobile business market as a whole. In this edition I throw the spotlight on a new mobile startup called Socialight. I spoke with the company's co-founder, Dan Melinger, about his new service, which combines mobile location, online local search, and social networking.

Welcome back to Take 5, my regular feature where I ask an industry insider five (or in this case six) questions about their company and the mobile business market as a whole. In this edition I throw the spotlight on a new mobile startup called Socialight. I spoke with the company's co-founder, Dan Melinger, about his new service, which combines mobile location, online local search, and social networking.Hello Dan, welcome to Take 5 on Over The Air. Let's start with the basics. What is Socialight and what does it do?

Socialight is a location-based content platform that lets anyone create, share, and discover virtual Sticky Notes tied to real-world places. Designed for mobile phone and web use, both regular users and editorial publishers can create content that is distributed based on geographical, temporal, social, and keyword relevance.

Socialight can be seen as both a mobile search tool and a social networking tool. Which way do you see it and why?

It's both, and that's crucial. On Socialight, the social network is the infrastructure that allows us to serve up relevant local content to our users.

Our goal is to provide the most relevant local content to our users. A lot of the time, you're going to find what a friend or colleague has to say, about a restaurant, for example, much more interesting than what a traditional local content source like the Yellow Pages, or even Zagat, has to say.

But... when a service like ours opens up the floodgates and lets anyone publish to place, it needs effective filters for deciding what's going to be relevant. The social filter, defined by one's social network, is a key factor. Simply said, people care what the people we trust have to say about the places we go (or the places about which we want to learn more). On Socialight, the social network is the infrastructure that helps determine what content we provide to our users.

Socialight looks similar to a location application from Nokia called smart2go. How is Socialight different from this Nokia app?

Unfortunately, I'm unable to install smart2go on my mobile (even my N80 which they support), but I checked out their web demo.

Have you been able to try it?

No, not yet.

Well, from the demo, it sounds like they've added a send-to-friend-style feature. I can't say exactly how our social features compare since I haven't seen it yet, but a key difference is that we are filtering core content based on social and temporal and geographical and keyword relevance. They seem to be concentrating on the last two.

I can see this tool being very useful for business travelers. How would you imagine a mobile professional on the road using Socialight?

Business travelers can learn a lot from their colleagues who have traveled to, or are from, the places they go. I've only been to Chicago once on business, but many of my colleagues have been there before, and I've got a couple of friends who live there. When I visit, I'd love to know not to go to the restaurant recommended by the concierge getting a kickback, but instead to a hole-in-the-wall place with a great vibe and good burgers tagged with a review by someone I trust.

Can you give us some examples of user behavior?

There are a couple of predominant ways people are using the platform:

- Tagging the world for their friends and the public with places they like, or care about, such as restaurants, shops, and bars. Sometimes, people create Sticky Notes when they're actually at the place and what they have to say is fresh in their mind.

- Creating notes at interesting spots such as filming locations for movies, or the sites of historical events.

- Social communication, with people letting friends know what they're up to, and sometimes suggesting a meet-up.

Do you envision adding other features to Socialight, like e-mail, mobile payments, classified advertising?

Socialight is a place-based service that's evolving.

Some of the platform enhancements coming in the near future are related to content publishing. Our aim is to make it as simple as possible for any person with pre-existing or new content to publish to place using Socialight. Then, we want to let them create and customize a spot on Socialight that's their very own, which we call their channel. We have a few major features in our pipeline that will launch soon around this.

Though we'll never push advertising to people and buzz their phones with it, Socialight is an ad-supported platform and ads appear around core content. Today, we source our ads from networks and soon, from content providers who have relationships with advertisers that they would like to leverage on a new, mobile channel. Down the road, we would like to open this up and let others publish local, paid listings.

What we do well is local content, so where it makes sense to integrate with mobile payment services and messaging services, we'll do so, but all around local content. For example, we might allow our users to use mobile payments to sell and buy local media like walking tours or bodies of restaurant reviews. We have our own messaging system that allows people to connect with other Socialight users directly on the platform, but have no plans to produce an alternative e-mail client.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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