The Web 2.0 sphere is very competitive, and it is hard to introduce a product that will shine among the sea of thousands of startups. If you cannot introduce a service that is different from the others, success will be hard to achieve.
Basing on the home page of Sandbox, the aspects of the social network part of the site are found as one button in the main menu bar at the top (My Group), a login form at the right (though it serves a purpose aside from the social network aspect of the site, more on this later), and a View your friends link at the right if you are logged on. Below that link, there are boxes for My friends (which shows what your friends have been doing), Photo uploads, and Video uploads. That’s, what, 2% of the entire home page. The rest: 2% coming soon, 96% on downloadable content.
See where this line of thinking is going?
Anyway, clicking on My Groups will bring you to the social network aspect of Sandbox. It is just a white-labeled implementation of mobile social network platform provided by Mostyle. BTW, you can’t access the mobile Sandbox version (m.mysandbox.com) at the moment, so as a workaround (if you don’t like to load the main Sandbox page), log on at mostyle.mobi. Everything’s Web based (mobile Web-based), so adding content to your Sandbox means firing up your mobile browser, logging on, and uploading content. That’s well and fine if you can use WiFi. Tough luck if (1) there is no WiFi coverage or (2) your phone is not WiFi capable. See where this is going?
They have implemented another way of sending content, and that is via email through MMS. You can also send content using ordinary email. You cannot blog via SMS or email, though. I think this is the better way to implement content uploads – simpler, efficient, and requires no additional tool (since everything you’ll need is on the phone already). This is what Smart should have done.
I think the proper framework for a good social mobile network (or the content aspect of a social network) was best spelled out by Edwin Soriano during his talk at iBlog5. Basically, his framework is similar to what Tumblr does (though Tumblr’s post pictures via MMS email did not work for me). I am surprised till now that Smart has not done this, to think that Ka Edong works for Smart. They have the infrastructure to implement that framework, and they could have improved on the Tumblr system.
There was one sentence that I had said before, during a meeting. I said that Sandbox looks like a Frankenstein’s monster, with several components mashed together to make a social network site. I am glad to report that it is no longer so. Some components are still there, but it’s not no longer a monster. I am witholding the kudos since some components are still coming soon. I still don’t believe that white labeling will work. If Smart wants to make this Sandbox work, it should invest more than it has done. They have a content delivery system done in-house (unless I am mistaken), why can’t they do it for the social network side of the site? Afterall, if the goal is to drive content consumption, make the social network experience work well for potential content consumer. If the experience doesn’t go well, consumer will just go elsewhere.
It is imperative for Smart to present a social network that is different from the existing ones. Otherwise, people will say Sandbox is just another social network site. Some ascerbic people would add the phrase “that failed.”
Give Sandbox a try, and tell me your experience.