Connect four

Mark Palomba, CEO of Critical Path, talks to about its recent acquisition of social media startup Shozu and the company’s vision of the social address book.

What’s driving the adoption of social networking on the mobile?

The traditional web world is moving to the phone and it’s doing that in a couple of ways. One way is that it’s now much easier to get access to the web on the phone. And the other way is through the value phone and feature phone, which are allowing people to get access to social networking services without a smartphone.

Where do you see the main business opportunities in social networking?

[Critical Path bought Shozu in early January for an undisclosed sum]. We were attracted to Shozu because it gave client capabilities across many different devices. Shozu is a known consumer brand and a lot of the technology that exists within Shozu fits in with our aim to connect users at the device level. People don’t connect to one social network, they may connect to four or five and the big challenge the consumer faces is how to everything in sync. There is a need for some platform so I can easily navigate the different social networks. Shozu adds that social networking aggregation engine. It allows you to push and get content from multiple social networks.

The Social Address Book – this is the way an operator can play a big part in the social networking phenomenon. We want to help the operator be the source of the contacts and help play in an aggregation level or connectivity level. You need to be able to backup content and contacts. Japan and Korea have had success in this area but those phones are highly configured because they’re controlled by the operator in those markets. The challenge is to create stickiness and retention. How well do you know the customer?

Do you see a struggle for ownership of the customer?

We’re moving into a world of co-opetition. Companies that are cooperating today may be competing tomorrow. It’s not a one size fits all world and there need to be different ways to access data because most consumers don’t have smartphones.

How do you monetise social networking?

Whether it’s social networking, email or whatever, there will always be a mixture of direct and indirect revenue generation. Providers will offer plans where they cover some of the cost directly, but others will be ad funded and then you will have a premium model where you pay to remove ads.

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