There have been numerous attempts at duplicating the success of Digg on the mobile web. Mobile sites like Admob owned TapTap along with bMarks, Mobilised and Tappity copy the basic Digg model of a crowd sourced URL sharing recommendation engine. These sites seem to be getting a fair amount of traffic although none of four has anything like Digg's name recognition.
Buzzwire, a new service at m.buzzwire.com which was launched today, aims to change that. Buzzwire, as a company, is not new to mobile. Up to now they have been mainly known for streaming video and audio subscription services delivered through mobile operator portals. Buzzwire's carrier partners include Verizon and AT&T and the company has received $16 million in series A and B funding.
The new Buzzwire URL sharing site is off portal. It works a little differently than Digg. Like Digg, users submit URLs that they like or think are newsworthy. But,unlike Digg, there is no equivalent to the "Digg" or "Bury" voting system where other users can rate submitted URLs. Buzzwire displays the top 10 URLs on its home page and in separate top 20 lists for topics like News & Politics, Sports, Gadgets and Gaming. It's not clear what the criteria are for including a URL in one of the top lists. The only metric of URL popularity that appears on Buzzwire is number of views, but the number of views doesn't seem to match the order of the sites in the top lists. The New York Times is reporting that Buzzwire has four editors "who also cull articles" so perhaps the top lists are picked by editors rather than algorithmically.
Submitting a site to Buzzwire is by SMS or Email. That's great if your browser allows you to share the current page by email or SMS, but not all mobile browsers do. Buzzwire also offers a "Buzzle Button" that mobile web publishers can add to their sites. Users click a site's Buzzle Button to submit the page to Buzzwire.
My favorite way to posting URLs to sites like Buzzwire is with a bookmarklet. Opera Mini and Mobile, Palm Blazer and Mobile Internet Explorer all support bookmarklets. Most of the other mobile URL sharing services suppy bookmarklets that provide one click URL submission. I couldn't find a Buzzwire bookmarlet so I created one. For desktop browsers, drag this link, Add to Buzzwire to the browser toolbar. For mobile Browsers, visit my mobile bookmarklets page at o.yeswap.com and follow the instructions to add the bookmarklet to your browser.
Buzzwire is an attractive, easy to navigate site. The stories on the front page are generally interesting and "buzz"-worthy. I want to like Buzzwire but there are a couple of things about it that bother me.
- Buzzwire doesn't seem to do any sort of check to see if submitted pages and videos are mobile friendly. It doesn't do any content transformation to non-mobile content either. I posted a Vimeo video page to Buzzwire and when I visited the Buzzwire link with my Nokia N95 phone, I ended up on the full Vimeo site with a Flash 9 video that was not playable on my phone. Given Buzzwire's background in mobile streaming, I expected that they would automatically convert Flash videos into H.263 or another mobile video format the way sites like vTap and TinyTube do. People are already posting non-mobile content to Buzzwire. It's easy to find links to full-web sites and Flash 9 and 10 videos in the public areas of m.buzzwire.com.
- The other thing that concerns me is that you apparently have to give your mobile number to Buzzwire in order to register. Obviously Buzzwire needs you number for SMS posting to work. But what about users who only want to post by email? Why should they need to supply a phone number? Thanks to abuse of premium SMS billing by ringtone and text alert services, users are increasing wary about giving their mobile number to online services. I'm sure that Buzzwire wouldn't risk their reputation by sending unsolicited premium messages. But what if Buzzwire were to eventually run into financial difficulties and their the phone number database wound up with a less scrupulous liquidator? I'm also not reassured by this statement on the site "All Buzzwire messages, standard/other charges apply." I can understand standard text messaging charges but what are these mysterious and unspecified "other" charges? The FAQ states that Buzzwire is free so the language about "other" charges is probably just legal butt covering but as it's currently worded it's neither clear or reassuring.
Url sharing is an inherently social activity. Buzzwire builds on that with a Twitter style following system. You can "follow" any Buzzwire member. The posts of the people you are following appear in your personal "MyWire" section on Buzzwire and like Twitter you can see who is following you.
Will Buzzwire become a Digg (or Twitter) like success? The site is slick and the stories on the front page are generally interesting. Everything works well and page loads are comentably quick. There are a few areas that still need work, in particular something needs to be done to filter or convert non-mobile content. Links to items that won't open or rack up big data charges will discourage potential users. I'd also like to see the ability to sign up for the service without revealing one's mobile number. Other than those issues Buzzwire looks strong. It's well funded and can probably exploit its carrier connections to get the site linked from operator decks. While the use of human editors runs counter to the concept of crowd sourcing, it should help to eliminate the spam that infects Digg and other mobile URL sharing sites.
What do readers think? Would you use Buzzwire or do you prefer one of the other mobile URL sharing sites?
Ratings: Content: Usability: