Musings on mobile social networks

As we all think about what is next for social networks it is natural that our thoughts turn to mobile.  In fact is such an obvious thought that many many people have had it – both entrepreneurs with new startups and the existing web based players.

So as with mobile advertising it is a space that is looking crowded before it has even really started.

My initial thought was that the players with the existing audience (Facebook, Myspace etc.) were in the commanding position and whilst this is true, some of the startups I’m seeing look like they might have enough about them to mount a serious challenge.

Weglu, Zyb and Eccosphere are three examples.

I’m starting to build a sort of laundry list of things these guys are going to need if they are to win out:

  • Vastly superior functionality – and they are looking strong here – the web players don’t seem to be working hard to leverage the phone’s uniqueness – e.g. address book
  • Easy to implement and use – getting over the java download issue – maybe that problem is disappearing, or they will have to use WAP (my understanding is that Flirtomatic are now pushing their WAP service ahead of the java app)
  • Zero marginal cost distribution – each new user costs virtually nothing to acquire.  Essential when monetisation per user is uncertain.  This is what has made the web players work well and has been difficult so far on mobile.  I think mobile to mobile virality and sign up could be very powerful, although my instinct is text and mobile web rather than bluetooth.
  • Minimal dependence on the operators, in the early days at least.  Once there is scale the operators will rush to get on the bandwagon, but you will almost certainly need to find a way to get to that point without them.
  • A co-existence strategy for the web based social networks

What do you all think?  Have the independent guys got any chance?  Are there any success factors I have missed?