November 30, 2010

Guest Post: Why the New Social Network Jumo Will Fail

Editor's Note: We challenged The Chronicle's Twitter followers to offer their assessment of whether the new social-networking site Jumo will succeed or fail. Mark Wilson (@ctrlzee) took on the challenge and offers the following guest post.

By Mark Wilson

Facebook has won this decade, a decade in which computers have shrunk into cellphones and letters to grandma have shrunk into writings on her wall.

Facebook is the social-networking platform that’s redefined the way we’ve lived this decade at a fundamental, electronic level. Seriously. One-third of women ages 18-34 check Facebook each morning before using the bathroom. If that’s not a revolution, I don’t know what is.

There is no such thing as a “Facebook killer”—not in this era. That’s as absurd as saying there’s an “oxygen killer.” When 500-million people are using your service, it’s the norm; it’s life.

So why am I going on and on about Facebook in a post about Jumo? It’s simple: Jumo, for all its media buzz, isn’t fundamentally different from Facebook. You may be able to discover nonprofits by your interests, but just look at the page. The profile image on the left. The feed. The “like” button. It’s Facebook. It’s Facebook with a slightly different skin, sure, but it’s still Facebook.

But I just said Facebook was great! Why not clone it?

Because at the start of the day, no matter how loyal the Jumo user base may be, one-third of women ages 18-34 are still going to check Facebook each morning. That’s their oxygen. Given Jumo’s similar design, do you really think those same women will then hop on Jumo? (Remember, Facebook already has the widely used Causes app built right in.)

No way. People have to use the bathroom sometime. Especially in the morning.

Jumo’s potential as some mainstream philanthropic Chosen One has a lot less reach than the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and The Huffington Post might make it seem. Do you have room for another Facebook in your life—not something you’re a fan of or you’ve signed up for, but a true, other Facebook that you use every day? I don’t, especially not when I already clone my Twitter account to my Facebook feed just to keep up.

(Keep in mind, I’m not even touching the arguments as to whether following certain causes through social networking apps even does any tangible good. I like Sriracha on Facebook, but I can’t say that I put more on my hot dog because of it. Such is a whole other beast, and it’s a point that will be debated long after Facebook has ceased to be air and has gone the way of AOL.)

Now, having said all of this, the headline that Jumo will “fail” is obviously editorial hyperbole. Whereas Jumo might not enlist casual addiction like Facebook, it will certainly be explored by many nonprofits that will be terrified NOT to use a philanthropic media platform by a guru behind Facebook and Obama’s election. And the laypeople who do sign up for Jumo accounts and end up using the site—if not every day, every week—will, by cohort alone, be more actionable in philanthropic endeavors than someone juggling Causes, Farmville, and information about whose birthday it is this week.

In other words, what Jumo might lack in reach, it may make up in muscle. And even if you don’t have a half-billion people engaged daily, you can still do a whole lot of good.

Mark Wilson, founder of and a contributor to the Web site Gizmodo, is horribly biased, as he will be launching his own solution to raising nonprofit awareness and money online in the coming weeks. He actually wishes Jumo the best of success and hopes, for the good of the world, his argument here is misguided.