Twango is a new media sharing service, for video, photos and other media. It's similar to eSnips, Multiply and PeopleAggregator, in that it combines media sharing with social networking. Twango was founded by a group of 5 ex-Microsoft employees in fall 2004 and officially launched in October 2006. I spoke to co-founder, Randy Kerr, yesterday about Twango and their plans for it. First let's review the app itself...
Twango claims to support 110 file types in all - including the obvious ones like pictures, videos, audio files, Microsoft Office documents, and PDFs. Users can upload their media to Twango via the Web UI, or via email or a camera phone. Twango also lets users specify access settings, to make their media private or public. Other features include conversion and synchronization of all iPod-compatible files, mobile uploads, embedding, and tagging.
Co-founder Jim Laurel told me via email that Twango aims to be more than just a "destination experience". He said their long term play is to be a platform. What this means is that Twango will increasingly sync their media with other services and devices, and provide APIs and other tools. Laurel said this is part of the reason Twango has taken longer to get to market than some of their competitors, because they've been working to get the underlying platform right.
The following graph illustrates what Twango is all about:
Mobile is key to Twango's plans and as well as the PC market in the US, they'll be targeting a "mobile-to-mobile" experience in countries where mobile is big. mobile.twango.com is being developed, and a Windows Mobile phone scenario based on Twango API was mentioned.
Market and Target Audience
As far as the market goes for media sharing, Randy Kerr told me that they see it "still in its infancy" - he quoted me a stat from Forbes.com that claims "only 7% of digital images captured in 2005 were uploaded to the web". He told me "the average user has yet to arrive" on media sharing sites and that currently it's just early adopters. Right now they're targeting those early adopters, as well as the "post collegiate" audience. So their target demographic is older and "perhaps more sophisticated" than the MySpace crowd - i.e. in the 24-39 age group.
As well as eSnips and Multiply, Randy mentioned "the one trick ponies" that do just one thing well - video, photos, etc. So he thinks Twango's ability to handle lots of different media types is a strength for them.
I said that the big companies, like Apple with iLife, are also enabling media sharing. Microsoft is likely to do that too. So I asked Randy how they will compete with Apple and Microsoft. Randy told me that Twango is "almost a better .Mac". He said that social software and the Web platform are key differentiators for them, compared to Apple, Microsoft et al. Randy also noted that Microsoft currently has a lot of disconnected products for media sharing - Soapbox, Spaces, etc. He says there is little synergy or co-ordination in Microsoft's media sharing products.
Twango is an ambitious product. I am usually not a fan of services that try to do too much - I actually prefer using best-of-breed apps that focus in on one thing and do it well. As John Milan wrote this week on R/WW, a best-of-breed ecosystem is developing on the Web. But I can see Twango's goal here is to be a platform for media sharing, so supporting multiple media types is a requirement for them.
As with most web 2.0 services, the proof of the pudding will be whether Twango can attract users and get network effects going. I also think Twango will face tough competition from Apple and Microsoft - and probably AOL, Yahoo and Google down the track. All of those big companies will utilize the Web platform more going forward, for media sharing, so Twango will have their work cut out competing against them. But as Randy hinted at, those big companies will be relatively slow at rolling out such products and coordinating them, so Twango has a window of opportunity now. Technically the product is sound and if they can attract users fast in 2007, then they have a decent crack at the large looming media sharing market.