NEW VEINS OF GOLD
Fred Wilson has a post on a recent trend bringing social networking features to online financial investing:
To many, it seemed that these two companies were the first movers in their respective market spaces. But that is far from the case. In the case of Mint, there are at least three services already in the market, Wesabe (which Union Square Ventures is an investor in), Geezeo, and Buxfer.
The social investing market is even more crowded with dozens of companies trying to become "a social Bloomberg".
The twist that Cake brings to the social investing field is that they use real transactions to build your profile by accessing your online trading accounts."
The "social Bloomberg" quest is something I've long been on the lookout for, for over a decade now, starting in the "Web 1.0" age. It's been a particular focus, since I've had a chance to closely watch how Bloomberg became Bloomberg on the global financial scene.
Most of the current companies though seem to be focused more on the trading prowess of it's members, which to my eye is a long way from what made Bloomberg really successful.
The real Bloomberg service has always started with the content and tools around almost every type of investment vehicle imaginable. And then the communities that built ad-hoc around these content and tool hubs became the major icing on the cake.
And then of course, the thing that really makes Bloomberg Bloomberg is it's impressive subscription-driven business model, where each terminal can bring in over $1000/month.
Nothing like that is likely to happen on a consumer-driven social Bloomberg. But it could still be financially interesting.
If anything, it's almost something Yahoo! Finance, the leading online financial destination, could do if they selectively added social networking features to it's venerable service. Yahoo! Finance already has one of the densest collection of financial content and tools, with one of the highest following by mainstream users.
As many of us might imagine, social networking features can be useful in a whole host of prosaic, online applications.
"Xobni creates a profile of all the interactions you have with your contacts. It appears to be a plugin for your email client - sits on the right-hand side of the client as you browse your email. Gives context to each message that you view; you can browse your messaging history with people, see their portrait, look at connected people (social networking), import calendar openings into email text, search your email by people and keywords. Xobni automatically extracts phone and email contacts from email messages.
You can also view upcoming appointments, to-do items, and a “stay in touch” area (a list of people who used to email you but haven’t in awhile - the “ex-girlfriend” feature).
Currently available for Microsoft Outlook, others soon.
Main points: view threaded conversations, find attachments, use email’s social network, and search email and people."
Yahoo! President Sue Decker recently commented that Yahoo! Mail had the potential to be a social network, a la Facebook and others.
Presumably Microsoft will soon wake up to the opportunities it has to do the same with it's global Outlook franchise. They even have Ray Ozzie has their chief technologist, who brought us the original social networks with Notes (later Lotus Notes), and then with Groove. It's pretty extraordinary to me for some time now that they've not yet tried to leverage the latent social networks opportunity within their Outlook franchise.
Companies like Xobni point the way to these opportunities across other email platforms. Today's news that Google is updating it's popular Gmail application, is yet another opportunity to do the same. Indeed, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington recently reported that Google is preparing a broader offensive against social networks like Facebook on November 5th.
So the opportunity to leverage existing online applications, be they in email, or verticals like Finance, is one of the next near-term Holy Grails of the Web 2.0 trend. We'll see if they bear fruit.