Like we hadn’t had enough of social networking, yet another Indian startup is taking the social network route to encourage user activity.
160by2, one of the early and successful startups in the free SMS space is now trying to create a social network around SMS. The feature is simple, encourage users to post public messages of 140 chars and then make others follow them. Twitter, anyone? 160by2 wants to leverage on the existing contact book of the users and build more connections around it. Though the idea is promoted as social network over SMS, it is more targeted towards keeping the user online for as long as possible. SMSes are hardly monetizable probably.
I have been a user of 160by2 from the very beginning and always appreciated the minimalistic UI. But with need to monetize, interstitial ads took over and then few pop ups as well. With the new set of features the UI is certainly gone for a toss. The team could have done a much a better job. In the past, sites trying to implement the twitter like interface have certainly done some good work. The features seem to launched in a hurry with few errors still surfacing.
Little would users remember that when 160by2 launched it had this feature of choosing to let your SMS go public. Since, the whole positioning of free SMS was meant to be P2P, so with privacy concerns the team had to do away with that feature. 160by2 later launched free classifieds as an alternative to SMS ads and probably to generate fresh content. It also gave away free ad credits to users to try and sell some real credits. 160by2 had also had paid user accounts to allow 160+ character SMSes. None of these seem to have given the anticipated push as yet.
I would definitely say this is a bold step by the team to come up with a me too feature so late. Hopefully, they must be having some strategy in place. There was a time, around the end of 2008, when 160by2 ran neck to neck with its competitor Way2SMS but since then the gap has only widened. While 160by2 chose to go international, way2sms added more non-SMS features and is now consistently amongst the top 25 sites of India.
SMS sites grew virally during the 2007-08 era but with falling SMS rates, not all users stayed around and not all sites manage to grow like the rest of the web. One other reason for 160by2’s slow growth could be its name, too difficult to make sense of for a non junkie and too difficult to refer and remember.
What do you think of this move by 160by2? Will it pay off? Will it be able to rise from here?
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]