Can a new social network site succeed that's basically an amplified version of Twitter while choosing not to launch in North America and Europe? Well, Bubbly is the new shiny thing literally bubbling over in Bollywood, and we're not talking about hookahs!
tBubble Motion's CEO Tom Clayton intention was to develop a social network that could basically send voice-activated tweets.
Anyone can register to follow a friend, family member, favorite celebrity or brand. Posting messages and following is free, and once a new message has been recorded and sent out, users get an alert. If they choose to listen, they pay for the airtime. Like the 140 character limit on Twitter, a 'bubbly' has a one-minute cap time.
To post on Bubbly, a user dials a short code, like *7, records a message and hangs up. To listen, they then tap in another code, like *2. It works on any handheld device, and messages can be posted to Bubbly while still withholding phone numbers for privacy.
According to an AdAge report, Bubbly hasn't launched officially, but the service has attracted an estimated 500,000 users in about four weeks after some of Bollywood's biggest stars started using it, including Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, who were talking about it in advance of the premiere of their hit film Three Idiots. "It's personal and it's easier for a celeb" to connect with their fans using Bubbly rather than a web-based service in which an agent or PR firm might be writing messages, said Mr. Clayton (apparently a critique as to how US celebs conduct themselves on Twitter).
Bubbly's business model is based on its revenue-sharing partnerships with telecoms. In India, that includes two giants, Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel.
Clayton said Bubbly is targeting five major global markets - India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil -- because they all offer large, mobile-savvy populations whose telecoms and cellphone users are "also open to cool, new innovative stuff." A web component may have a role in the launch of Bubbly in Japan, but in most markets the focus will remain on a mobile-only version of Bubbly for now.
According to a Forbes report, "Voice is particularly absent from the big social networks, and Clayton says he's talked to the major players in the space to see how to integrate Bubbly into existing social networks."
For the mobile crowd, I would think Bubbly might have a chance to succeed, but without a US market to do some of the beta testing, it's a big question mark whether or not Bubbly can really bubble over globally.
TwunerHowever back in the August, I reported on Twuner, the first Twitter app on a mobile platform to develop text-to-speech technology for Twitter. It basically converted your tweets into play-back voice messages. However at $2.99 per app and seven months later, it doesn't appear to have attracted much of an audience to support it.
And when you think about it - who really wants to hear your tweets anyways? Bubbly might be the next shiny thing for the 'Slumdog Millionaire' set, but I don't think the Twitterati is going to embrace 'messages in a bubble.' Unless of course, it came with a hookah!