The Android-First Social Network

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Do social networks have a killer distribution or engagement advantage on Android that cannot be replicated on iOS because of Android’s openness? Will we see an Android-first social network of real scale in the near future?

I think it’s a real possibility. Open platforms enable faster experimentation and more innovation than closed ones. New engagement models can be created, tested and refined much more easily on Android than iOS and Facebook’s newest mobile product could be that first example, despite its initial struggles.

Chat Heads is a persistent messaging application that’s always present. If a friend messages you while you’re reading The Atlantic on Flipboard, you can respond without leaving the magazine app.

Communication is the lifeblood of social networks and a social network maximizes its value by elongating session times, retaining users over the course of years and growing the network quickly. A persistent messaging application, that exists across application like Chat Heads, will no doubt boost those key metrics.

Counterarguments abound for this idea but audience size isn’t one of them. For all intents and purposes, the number of iOS and Android users is roughly the same, greater than 500M.

The main counterpoint is competition: Have existing networks including Skype, Facebook, Google Plus, and the litany of mobile first messaging companies with tens of millions of users like Line, Kik, MessageMe, Instagram, WhatsApp and SnapChat already sucked the oxygen out of the room?

Another counterpoint is Android fragmentation, an issue Facebook is struggling with at the moment. It’s challenging to support the many versions of Android multiplied by the different device form-factors.

What do you think? Could an Android first social network that uses the openness of the platform reach scale? Let me know on this Branch

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22 April 2013

Y

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