Screenshot of The Nut Graph‘s status update option in Facebook
FOR many internet users, there’s a daily ritual that has to be attended to.
Every morning, if these internet users are in Malaysia, they probably log on to Friendster, MySpace or Facebook. They update their status, basically whinging or declaring aloud a profound or whimsical thought to friends who are also part of the online social network. The introverts struggle to come up with that witty one-liner and end up leaving their status message blank for days.
Still, no matter how vocal or reticent some choose to be, they all enjoy the voyeuristic ritual of scanning what their friends are up to. They take note of who has been tagged in a photo album, who is a fan of yet another Facebook group page, who has joined a socio-political cause or is going to a party. They play poker, poke a friend, throw a sheep at someone or send someone a dinosaur egg.
Screenshot of MySpace
The most popular social network sites in Malaysia, which is estimated to have over 15 million internet users, are Friendster, Facebook and MySpace. Some users are members of two to three such sites while others are not keen to juggle more than one. With such a competitive market, is there room for more social network sites?
The people at Green Packet Bhd believe there is. One of its units, ruumzNation Sdn Bhd, launched ruumz on 15 Jan 2009, said to be Malaysia’s first home-grown social networking portal.
(Rodolfo Clix / sxc.hu)
James Chong, the chief executive of ruumzNation, clarified at the event that ruumz (pronounced “rooms”) was not out to reinvent the wheel or replicate existing social networks like Facebook, Friendster or hi5. Rather, he said ruumz’s aim was to fill the gaps in existing social networking facilities and improve the networking experience.
“We specifically set up a dedicated market research and intelligence unit to drill down to the specifics in providing what users want today that they’re not already getting. This is not just another portal, but a fresh, unique, exciting and worthwhile experience for users,” he said separately in a press statement.
“With ruumz, Malaysians, and eventually, everyone in the world will [be] empowered to do what they’ve always wanted and needed to do. [They can] connect with others, share, entertain and be entertained — but with much added ease and more fun,” he added.
Ruumz for improvement?
Screenshot of ruumz
Like most social network sites, ruumz allows people to connect with friends, join groups and share information. But there are some features that it hopes would be unique enough to enhance the networking experience.
“Pushing the boundary to enhance users’ online social networking experience, ruumz, for example, allows ‘ruumzsters’ (its members) and their ‘ruumates’ (friends) to listen to and download music; send mobile content directly from the site; order printouts from uploaded photos, and even have them delivered right to [their] doorstep,” ruumz said in a press statement.
It said its musicruum “will be the first unlimited PC download music service in Southeast Asia”. Ruumzsters can download songs legally for about RM2 apiece, Chong said at the launch.
The musicruum may appeal to people who respect intellectual property enough to be willing to fork out a reasonable price to download music legally. However, these people are few and far between in a market where piracy is rampant. Thus, it remains to be seen if the musicruum will be a hit.
Screenshot of movieruum
Meanwhile, the movieruum offers information on the latest movies screening in Malaysia, including synopses, show times and trailers. Mobileruum allows users to send wallpapers, music, games and other content directly to their friends’ mobile phones while videoruum is where ruumzsters can upload and share videos. There’s also ruumzradio, which plays hip hop, rock, urban and easy listening tunes in three languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English and Chinese.
In the pipeline are diningruum (food/restaurant reviews), partyruum (latest parties in town) and travelruum (where to visit, stay, and eat, plus travel-related offers). These clearly cater more to users — and advertisers — located in Malaysia.
New kids on the block
Screenshot of Friendster’s homepage
Entering the fray at this stage, with giants like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook dominating the local market, is a bold move. So far, ruumz has about 1,000 ruumzsters. It will need to attract a lot more to have a viable mass market. Friendster, currently the most popular social network site in Malaysia, claims to have four million monthly unique visitors from Malaysia as of April 2008.
But ruumz is not braving it on its own. For starters, being part of Green Packet’s growing range of information technology and communications businesses, ruumz has plenty of resources, and markets, to tap into.
Green Packet also owns broadband service provider Packet One Networks (Malaysia) Sdb Bhd (P1), one of the four WiMAX licensees in the country. WiMAX is capable of extending broadband wireless service to as far as 50km from a fixed station compared with a wifi network which can only reach about 100m. One of P1’s projects is to make Bandar Sunway in Selangor an integrated wireless township.
P1 has already teamed up with Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to provide Wireless@KL, a free wireless broadband service in the capital.
Screenshot of partners listed in ruumz’s website
Secondly, ruumz is collaborating with strategic industry players to offer entertainment and mobile device-related features which are supposed to make it different from other social networks. Among the partners are licensing body Public Performance Malaysia, the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia, Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Cinema Online and Mobeego.
All these big names would certainly be a boost to the newcomer. Internet users in Malaysia will have to figure out for themselves whether ruumz can really enhance their social networking experience. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Cindy Tham confesses she has not religiously performed the daily ritual of updating her status on Facebook.