The New Guard
High-tech heavyweights may reign supreme, but some newbies have their eyes on the throne.
The company: Zannel's Instant Media Messaging platform lets users network from their phones with videos, pictures and text. It's positioned to take on textcentric social networking and micro-blogging leader Twitter.
The founders: CEO Adam Zbar, 38; CTO Braxton Woodham, 36; and vice president of technology Harry Evans, 32
The difference: Multimedia is key to Zannel's success. Its service takes advantage of the many mobile phones that now come with still and video cameras, can embed updates on Facebook and MySpace, and is now optimized for viewing on Apple's iPhone.
In their words: "The good news is that a number of the major challenges facing mobile social networking--such as mobile web adoption, carrier walled gardens, 3G network rollouts--are rapidly disappearing as the mobile ecosystem evolves," says Zbar. "The remaining challenge is to create a true mobile social networking experience that leverages a phone's unique capabil-ities vs. trying to duplicate the online experience."
The company: Ning takes a different approach than social networking leaders Facebook and MySpace by allowing users to create, customize and control their very own social networks.
The founders: CEO Gina Bianchini, 35, and CTO Marc Andreessen, 36, of Netscape fame
The difference: In February 2007, Ning debuted a spiced-up and spiffed-up service with a new level of user-friendliness. The ability to customize the social networking experience appeals to a wide range of users and many potential niche networks.
In their words: "We love MySpace and Facebook," says Bianchini. "They have been fantastic for bringing people into social networking. The difference with Ning is that instead of joining a large, one-size-fits-all social network, you're creating your own--with your choice of features, your own look and feel, your own members, your own brand. With Ning, it's yours."
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