Xanga has three problems right now as far as we know.
1. It’s out of money.
2. It has a dwindling userbase.
3. Its software is out of date
Their solution right now is to raise $60,000 from members, restart Xanga based on the wordpress platform and start charging people a yearly fee to blog. Free members will be limited to just commenting on other peoples blogs.
There are a couple problems with this solution.
1. Xanga has been around for 14 years and has gained a member base on it’s own custom built software. If people wanted to use wordpress they would be using wordpress instead of xanga. I’ve already heard several xanga members say that wordpress is too confusing. I’ve been using wordpress myself for about 8 years, I have self installs on eight of my websites (including this one) and even I think it’s too confusing at times. So I can see how someone who is not very tech savvy could have issues with it. It’s a powerhouse of a system. But it’s also software that was built to be self installed and has been shoehorned into a hosted solution by Automattic, the company the makes wordpress. For Xanga it’s a backwards move as a company that has spent the last 14 years running it’s own custom code and offering free customizable blogs. It’s going to confuse and frustrate their current userbase and not give any real insentive for new users to sign up when they an just go get a free wordpress blog from the company that makes the software.
2. There are a lot of free blogging platforms out there today. The major platforms are wordpress, tumblr and blogger. But there are many others as well. There are even paid blogging platforms like squarespace. All of these platforms run their own custom software and incorporate unique features the others may not have. If someone just wants to blog, they can easily sign up for a free account on any of these other services and begin blogging. No paywall. That’s not even counting social networks like facebook, google+ and twitter which themselves are being used as microblogging sites by people who don’t feel they need a full on blog.
Xanga faces a huge uphill battle by only allowing paid users to blog in a world where free blogging is everywhere. There is little insentive for new users to join Xanga as free members if they aren’t getting anything out of it. Without fresh blood (i.e. new readers) coming in, that in turn gives little insentive for paid users to keep paying.
Xanga as a community works on a very basic principle; you read my blog and I’ll read yours. Xanga is about to break that principle.
The Solution (or what I would do if I were Xanga)
For starters I would have begun designing and building a new custom platform two years ago. Figuring out what features we wanted, how we could make revenue and where we would go in the future. I would then get my in-house programmers on the ball.
Back in 2010 I started designing SocialMore and it was being designed to address issues I had with sites like Xanga and Facebook. My problem is that I didn’t have a programming team or money behind me to help make my vision a reality. I’m going to assume that in 2010 Xanga had full time in-house programmers. It woud have been ridiculous for a popular dot com that had been around for 14 years not to have a team like that in-house. Even if it was just one or two people who spent 40 hours a week coding.
So my point is, if I saw the issues in 2010 and started designing/building a new social network myself, Xanga should have as well. It’s their job to keep innovating and grow their business.
The new platform I would build would include more social capability. The ability to create “follow groups” and put people into multiple groups. Very much like google+ does with their “Circles” and executed in the same way. You are forced to group someone when you follow them. That way you don’t end up with 400 uncategorized people you are following that you later have to weed through and categorize into groups. Nobody wants to spend half a day doing that. There are of course default groups already set up like: online friends, real life friends, co-workers, family, interesting people, etc. You can create as many new follow groups as you want.
I would allow people to search other other people by location, age range, gender, interests, relationship status, sexual orientation, online status and more. This is something myspace allowed that no current social network has. In fact I met my girlfriend this way through myspace and we’ve been together now for over five and half years. This capability can be used for dating but it can also be used for finding new friends and interesting people if it’s done right. There is no point in having a social based site with a feature like this is not built in to allow people to find and meet new people.
I would refocus Xanga as a whole away from being simply a blogging site. There are a lot of free blogging sites already. As mentioned above. We don’t need a paid blogging site build on wordpress. I would instead focus more on being a social network with incredibly powerful blogging features built in. I woudl focus on the potential weakness of other social networks like facebook and google+ who have strict policies against being anonymous. So I would offer a solution that allowed people to be anonymous if they wished. Maybe a twin profile system that showed anonymous information to the public, but allowed people to have a real profile underneath they can invite others to view by giving them permission.
This is as simple as asking the following question in the users settings menu:
“Which groups can view your real life profile?” – check off the groups that are allowed
(public, online friends, real-life friends, family, co-workers, interesting people, blackbook, private)
This is where follow groups become useful, because users can now use them for permissions on who is allowed to view what. Everything from your real life profile to individual posts, pictures, galleries and pages. Absolute macro control over who is allowed to see what. There may even be other types of profiles available that users can enable, like an adult profile that shows racier stuff that they only allow certain groups of people to see. Invite only.
I would have two user types, free and premium:
Free users would be given a basic profile and website/blog with a couplle of ads on the side. Much like a facebook profile or google+ profile where the user can change the top banner but that’s about it. They can still blog/microblog, add pictures, ten minute videos and interact with others. In very much the same way they can on facebook/google+. For most free users this would be a perfectly acceptable solution. It still allows them to be an active member in the community and have a place of their own for their own content.
Premium users would buy bandwidth. Bandwidth would be priced at $5 for every 5 gigabytes. Minimum of $5 per month. They can add more bandwidth in $5 chunks as needed. If they run out of their 5GB in less than a month their website will resort back to a basic free account until their next billing cycle or until they add more bandwidth. They can also set up a billing cap where they will be rebilled when they run out of bandwidth rather than have to wait till the next month or manually buy more. They could set their cap at $10 or $15 or whatever their maximum limit is per month. They would of course have a control panel where they can view their usage and an email alert will be sent if they are running low of bandwidth.
Premium users would have the ability to cutomize their own website. They woud have access to the theme shop where they can download and tweak free themes as well as buy premium themes designed and sold by other xanga users. They will have other features like site statistics, the ability to create static pages on their website, create menus, use widgets like sliders, polls, forums, ask-me-anything boxes, shopping carts/buy it now buttons to sell goods or digital content, the ability to upload videos without length limits and offer download options to users that want to download pictures, audio or HD videos to their computers. They will also be able to use their own domain name if they desire so they can really make it their own full blown website. The only limit their websites would have would be the amount of bandwidth they bought.
Premium users can have multiple websites and can divide their bandwidth up among all their websites as they wish. Bandwidth can also be gifted to other users in 1GB increments. Users can even use bandwidth to pay for things on other peoples websites. For example, if I had a video that was 800MB’s on my site and people wanted to download it but I didn’t want to pay for all these people using my bandwidth to download it, I could offer them the ability to pay me the 1GB which would allow them to download it. There would simply be a “buy with bandwidth” or “download with my bandwidth” button on page.
This creates an economy on Xanga where otherwise free users may purchase bandwidth just so they can download or get access to other peoples content, even if they themselves have no desire to have a fancy custom website/blog of their own.
This is also where follow groups play a role. People can set certain content pages/forums/post categories that are viewable to only a certain group. In order to get into that group you would have to pay, either with bandwidth or money. Allowing Xangans to have a paywall on their own sites for premium content they may offer including digital downloads of mp3s, mp4s, pdfs or just access to sections of their site.
Premium users would also be allowed to put up their own ads on their own websites through Xanga ad service, which could work a lot like google ad-words/ad-sense. Other users could buy ads that other users put on their xanga sites. Xanga take a small cut for the service fee. Ad categories from G rated to X rated. Something google ad-sense doesn’t allow which is another place xanga could make its mark.
These are just a few ideas. I’ve got a million more. But in my opinion this would be a much better route for Xanga than what they currently have planned, which seems rather dull and the “same old thing” by comparison.
What the above idea does is address a service platform that is currently missing on the internet as a whole. That is a service that combines a webhost with a social network. The best of both worlds where you have active users who all belong to a single community, but who each have their own custom websites. WordPress fails at social interaction and easily meeting new people. It’s a blogging service with social tacked on as an afterthought. Facebook and google+ fail at customization. They offer only profiles that all look the same without any option to pay to host your websites there. Yet the combination of these two models would offer place where people can have their own websites that other people will actually visit because new posts and pictures from those sites will show up in their feed. When they go to those websites they are already a member, because those sites are build on that platform. It’s simple and easy.
This is what SocialMore was to be and so much more. But considering I can’t seem to get that off the ground myself, maybe someone else like Xanga can. Hell I’d be thrilled just to use it and I would tell all my friends to dump facebook and move over to it.Â