Initially, I was surprised at how little there is to Zedge's mobile (wml) site wap.zedge.net. All you can do there is download the files that you have added to your account from the PC site. There is no messaging, chat or ability to view another user profile or any social features at all on the mobile web site, although all those, except chat, are available on the PC site. With 3.5 million users and 400,000 shared mobile files Zedge obviously is popular. As I explored Zedge's PC site, I think I found a couple of keys to Zedge's success, trust and a focus on handset customization.
- Trust is fostered by Zedge not using SMS to deliver content, there's not even a place for a phone number in the user profile. This is reassuring to users who have been burned by or heard about "Free Ringtone" services that turned out to be premium SMS scams.
- By handset customization I don't mean hardware mods or firmware hacking, instead Zedge offers users ways to personalize their phones with, easy to install content that won't break the warranty like ringtones, wallpapers, themes and screensavers. To that end, there are menu driven, online logo, wallpaper and screensaver creators. There's a large, active forum with the busiest topics being phone specific help forums and theme making and unlocking. In terms of downloadable content, there are ringtones, images, themes, wallpapers and videos with the focus on themes. There are over 40,000 downloadable themes created by users for most of the models of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Siemens and Windows Mobile phones that support themes. Many users use the forums to request a specific theme based on a photograph or web link.
Unlike most phone file sharing sites, Zedge doesn't offer sharing or download of mobile games and apps. I suspect that's because Zedge doesn't want to be seen as a "Warez" site. There are intellectual property issues around ring tones, too - but tones are more of a Grey area. Is a user created midi of a pop tune a copyright violation, if it was composed from memory without starting with a digital file or score? What about supporting fair use for users who already own the CD? On the other hand, having your site be a repository for the sharing of cracked games is just asking for trouble.
It's easy to see the appeal of Zedge. The content creation tools are quick, simple wizards that let even the most artistically challenged user create something that looks good. The moderated forums have are mostly flame free and have a pretty good signal to noise ratio compared to most forum sites. Even the minimalist mobile site makes sense especially for users on metered data plans. There is no data or time wasted searching, going through lengthy menus, etc, it's just connect, download, disconnect. I think IDT has picked up a winner, lets see what they do with it. Update: 10-Mar-2007: Zedge has a new and much improved mobile WAP2 (xhtml-mp)site. No longer limited to just downloading content you've queued on the PC site, the new version lets you browse and search Zedge's huge collection of wallpapers, themes, picture messages, ring tones and videos. The social aspect of Zedge is well supported too, you can finally access your inbox and guest book as well as message with your to your Zedge friends directly from the phone.