City!N is a China-based social networking site that aims to be not just another Facebook copy, but an intelligent SNS. Simon Chan, co-founder & CEO of City!N shared some information about his latest project with us. According to Simon, ISNS (intelligent SNS) will be the future of the web!
1. There is already a large amount of local and international SNS in China. What does City!N include and offer that other SNS don't?
I don't see any high quality (or ''up to standard'') SNS in China so far. People are too busy with the financial game and they tend to forget about the importance of real user experiences. But I see that some competitors are catching up, especially the VC market which is a bit quiet now. But I don't think City!N is the same as any SNS existing at the moment. We are the next big change for SNS.
2. So what exactly are those innovative features that fit the tastes and interest of your target, Asian young adults?
The magic behind City!N is an AI learning engine, which, besides connecting you to your real friends, can also study your behavior and make appropriate recommendations to you to enrich your social life. Asian young adults love to reach out and meet new friends and they also like to "show off" their tastes.
3. Can you tell us a little more about the technology being used to match people?
Our matching technology can be divided into two levels. The simple level is that "if you like A, you should also like B, because most users who like A also like B". The advanced level, which we still haven't released, is to match the users' tastes. "User A's taste is similar to User B's. So as User A likes apples, User B should also like apples". This technology is the future of recommendation and matching in the way that traditional contextual matching isn't anymore.
4. City!N was officially launched on March 13 in China. How is the site perceived by the users, how many members do you already have?
Up to now we have only around 4,000 users. I know that this number is very small in the market, but please remember that it's a closed network and we are still in the invitation-only mode. Number of members is not our primary concern at this stage. We focus on the quality of the social network inside.
5. Can you tell us why you have picked China and no other place for launching this SNS?
Well, we have picked this market because of the potential. We don't see much high quality SNS in China so far and real identity SNS are still a quite new concept for most users here. Besides, we kind of benefit from the natural "barrier of entrance" to the Chinese market. Take a look at Google, Myspace, Friendsters, etc. in China - none of them has been able to be successful. You have to understand the local rules of the game to survive here.
6. Do you think the concept of City!N is working worldwide or is heavy localization required when entering new markets? When can we expect the first English version to be up and
Since City!N was designed with "automatic localization intelligence" in mind, it's very flexible and should be able to fit in any local community worldwide. I believe that City!N is the next SNS standard and we will expand worldwide. We'll have our translated version in 2008!
7. In the past you already started a professional social network for university students that eventually had to be turned into a job board. What have been the reasons for the failure and
what did you learn from that experience?
We had picked the wrong market to start with - Hong Kong. The population there is too small for any community site. My original plan was to start in Hong Kong and then expand to mainland China. But when we were ready to move on we found that similar models (e.g. Wealink, Linkist) had already matured in China. We have learned our lesson about the importance of market size and about the cultural difference between HK online communities and the ones in mainland China.
8. What can we expect from City!N in 2008?
City!N will be the pioneer SNS in Asia. We are going to be the innovative leader. You will see more advanced features from us. Oh, by the way, just some days ago, we launched a face detecting feature for photo tagging. With this technology, users can save the hassle of selecting the faces of their friends in each photo in the way you need to on Facebook or Flickr's photo albums. Besides, we have released a number of unique features since City!N's was launched. City!N is the first SNS in China using QR Code technology for mobile data reading and the first SNS supporting the import of QQ IM contacts. Furthermore, it is an intelligent SNS capable of studying and analyzing the tastes of the users. There is more to come...