in General, Tech


I was excited to discover Meetro last night. But now… not so much.

Meetro is an IM client that interfaces with AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN. But Meetro doesn’t stop there, and goes on to add their own IM service. The key is that the Meetro service is “location aware”. Enter your location’s address, and your buddy list fills up with people physically near to you. From there, you browse the users’ profiles to find those with similar interests. Strike up a conversation and voila, you’ve got a new friend to hang out with.

As a new transplant to the Huntsville area without a social group, this core functionality really excited me. An easy way to meet like-minded people!

However, Meetro has an achilles heel – nobody uses it. Or at least nobody in my area. At first I thought the client wasn’t even working – “within 1/4 mile”, “within a mile”, “within 5 miles”, and “Other Locals” were all showing zero results. I had to broaden the last category substantially to find anybody. The nearest person I’ve seen online so far is 146 miles away, and there are only five within 300 miles.

Which brings me to my point: I think there are simply too many options out there. AIM, Yahoo, ICQ and MSN have the market pretty locked up. How can a newcomer break in? Users established their preference long ago. Enabling Meetro to connect to these older services was a step in the right direction, but the key question is how to convince users that they need this extra functionality. They’ve gotten along just fine without it so far, after all.

Even when a user does venture into something new, how are they to pick an option? Google Talk? Meetro? Service XYZ? There are too many options for any newcomer to reach the critical mass of users necessary for success in a collaborative environment. A company almost has to be first to market, even if not the best – imagine if there were half a dozen capable alternatives to Flickr. They never would have gotten the user base necessary to justify continued development and improvement of service.

A site or service needs users to get users. I don’t tend to be an early adopter who sees this process firsthand, and so would be interested in a case study on how to successfully grow a user base.

Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers that Meetro catches on. But not holding my breath.