MyLifeBrand is a new social networking convergence service, currently in invitation-only alpha testing. This product aggregates Web 2.0 functionality, tools, creativity and a portal for converging business with user generated content. The premise is to offer diverse services where individuals, groups and businesses can take advantage of proximity and community. MyLifeBrand combines social networking, common tools with social media and allows for the integration of networks like Facebook, Bebo, Linkedin, MySpace and others. This startup dares users to "“Take the Challenge”" and perhaps improve life, but can it catch Facebook and others?
There is not a lot of information about MyLifeBrand's development team. Several blogs have done periphery stories about some of their promotions, but details are hard to come by. MyLifeBrand is apparently a Seattle-based company and their Founder and CEO Jeff Jani's name was mentioned in a press release via Business Wire on the 29th. The company has had several promotions, including one featuring a Kelly Clarkson community, a gamer community creation contest and a virtual town hall featuring Presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd.
MyLifeBrand offers users the basic tools for communication, content management, sharing and media storage. Creating a profile, writing a blog, using internal mail, importing friends from other sites and posting to the community wall are all simple functions. Users can also go mobile via a WAP interface and external IM is possible through a Meebo.com embed. I found no real issues with any of these standard tools, but navigating between some elements was circuitous. The profile editor of MLB is much better than that of MySpace, and has fields and functions for a wide range of input. A horde of other Web 2.0 functions from Google Maps to the upcoming MyLifeTV almost prove to be too much. The media gallery illustrated below is very good, but could use drag-and-drop capability and organizational utility.
Video Gallery illustrating my 3 video uploads
The Heart of Community
The directory list for MLB is already impressive, and for an alpha test the developers and the community have assembled some excellent content. The real value of this site is not just in its ability to import other networks, but in the special relationship between personal and business communities. The relative segregation of communities and ironic proximity to business entities is potentially a big plus for MLB. If the community can accept this proximity to for-profit sites, then a rather unique balance might be struck for advertising. A user can essentially create any kind of community - based wholly, partially or cumulatively on their other sites via a field-fill UI. Once again we are visiting a startup wholly dependent on users to generate success with the quality, number and popularity of their communities.
A business community for one of England's Premier Soccer teams
Most Web 2.0 sites I have tested have become geometrically more innovative, intuitive and usable. MLB has a big compliment of widgets from Wikiseek for information, to YouTube for media. But compared to other sites like Zude or Second Brain, this site almost seems outdated. Users can vote on various elements, customize their communities, use a chat interface and perform a range of other tasks. However, will just having even dozens of these types of capabilities be enough? Adding video and other media, talking with friends and syndicating creative aspects is becoming the status quo in this venue. MLB is also offering rewards in the form of points that users can redeem for money or services, but unless the rewards are significant I cannot really advocate this as a marquee feature.
Profile page with functions
MyLifeBrand is a very new startup with some excellent possibilities. The social networking aspects and/or individual tools do differentiate the site in some aspects from MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and others.
The biggest drawback I see is that cross domain drag-and-drop and other emerging technologies may render MLB's tools obsolete. Illustrating imported communities "in frame" is also not a very popular aspect for many users and I much prefer the object oriented aggregation sites for this type of utility.
The simple insertion of social convergence and offering vague challenges to users is simply not enough in the long run. Alpha sites are always wrought with glitches and small interface problems - and MLB proved to be no worse than others in this regard. I think the big problem for MyLifeBrand will be in catching up technologically, in order to maximize their great potential for becoming a viable convergence site or aggregator. As I see it, what the developers do next and how fast they do it may be crucial to the success of MyLifeBrand.