Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A letter to Lauris and Jesper

Spring has come to Riga, so perhaps it's OK to air some strange ideas. These are addressed to Lauris Liberts, the godfather of draugiem.lv (the Latvian Friendster) and Jesper Eriksen of Bite GSM (the winner of the Latvian third GSM/UMTS licence).
Lauri (now I'm mixing in the Latvian declination to address someone :)), you've basically signed up the entire Latvian young middle class and those who soon will be. Around 255 000 of them, more than 10 % of the whole f**king population of Latvia (2.3 million)! No other quasi-medium has that kind of audience, attention platform, call it what you will. And these people want to communicate with each other. That's the whole draugiem.lv point, it would seem, at least for the young singles and even those in relationships simply widening their networks.
A logical extension of draugiem.lv would be draugiem (draugu karte?), the mobile phone card. It could come with some free SMS and MMS, easy payment from the balance for all the draugiem.lv micropayments (starting your photo album, other stuff).
For Jesper, the draugiem card would be one way to get a fast-track start on selling capacity on the new Bite Latvia or whatever it will be called network. Bite GSM declared that its approach in Latvia would be to sell an open network, so the more virtual operators, the better.
I think, quite frankly, the thing would fly. My sources tell me that when Telia MultiCom -- which has nothing to do with Telia any longer -- advertised in a small banner on draugiem.lv for its new cheaper and faster broadband internet, the response crashed Telia MultiCom's server. With more and more workplaces restricting draugiem (it has become the default desktop for some users :) ), there is an incentive to have access, preferably broadband, at home. Once you have that, it is a short step to all those draugiem friends Skyping each other (unless you, Lauri, come up with a tweak of Skype just for draugiem, maybe an IP push-to-talk thing the way you can now click on a name to send an e-mail. There would have to be consent for getting these calls, though). At the end of the day (literally), you might even crash those Lattelekom servers hosting you and when you have 300 000 mobile pre-paid and IP voice customers on the system, Lattelekom may 1) regret the day they let you in or 2) buy you out :).
Another idea, Jesper, is to sell your entry-level, low-end services through draugiem.lv and see what happens. Not a bad association to have.
I hope nothing happens to dampen the enthusiasm for draugiem.lv over the summer, because the new Bite Latvia or whatever won't be up and running until the fall at the earliest.
In the tradition of Wired magazine when my old college friend Louis Rossetto was still running it, I will list the music I was listening to on my earphones from iTunes while writing this (mind you, I rarely do this).

The Music Behind this Post:
Neil Young, Rocking the Free World, Jimi Hendrix, Machine Gun, The Eagles, Take It Easy, Simon & Garfunkel, America, The Standells, Dirty Water (OK, I grew near Boston :)), The Mamas & Pappas, California Dreamin', Golden Earring, Radar Love, The Grateful Dead, Truckin' and Sugar Magnolia (while revising some errors).


Kristaps Kaupe said...

Skype? Draugiem.lv has their own chat software for Windows (I heard rumors that GNU/Linux version is underway). I think it's possible to add VoIP capabilities to it.

Juris Kaža said...

VoIP on a more or less closed network would be radical :)! Don't know about the chat because I can't try it. Officially, Dienas bizness has blocked draugiem.lv and I use MacOSX to access it, so Windows doesn't do much good.

Anonymous said...

As far as i know Lattelekom has deal with draugiem.lv already- not only hosting this internet trivia but getting bunch of bucks from ads already- so i believe that Nils already have taken some steps. At least i dont see another explanation why Lauris have changed his mind regarding ads in the site.

Juris Kaža said...

Lauris would be a fool not to take some advantage of the huge target audience by selling discreet ads. I know he doesn't want to end up like delfi.lv, where there are lots of banner and othe stuff, but he believes few people read or click them.

Kristaps Kaupe said...

I haven't tried draugiem.lv chat software too, because I'm running Gentoo Linux, both on my work PC and notebook. But my colleagues at work with Windows XP showed me it.

You enter your draugiem.lv login and password, and then you get list of your friends and see who is online and who is not, and you can chat with them.

I think VoIP in draugiem.lv software could be good idea for them (draugiem.lv owners). Lot's of draugiem.lv people even does not know what is Skype so they would use draugiem.lv VoIP sofware. And draugiem.lv could add some subscription fee for that (for example, 0.35 LVL per month) and earn additional money with this.

Juris Kaža said...

Well, I hope Lauris reads the post and these comments. Then we shall see.

Pēteris Lediņš said...

1) Draugiem.lv has the background of quite a lot of problems which can bring a piece of bad experience and thus bad image for those advertising behind that. Check speed for example.
2) Lauris has said in some interview smth. like that (am I right? yes I am(:): - they won't show adds, - they won't give away the DB under draugiem.lv. So comerciallizing is nice, but double sided.

Besides that - how much draugiem.lv earn and what kind of income is that? Can you find Lauris in Lursoft?

Normunds said...

actually the whole point of draugiem.lv was lost a long time ago when it became "people-that-i-recognize.lv" and since a few days now it has become even worse, cause now the users try to get as many `friends` as they can, for competition. soon the draugiem.lv era will be over, because the whole point is lost and there is no use anymore.

Juris Kaža said...

You have defined the risk and downside of draugiem quite well. Aside from trying to collect more friends than anyone, there is not all that much to do inside the site. A certain Dāvis Kaža, more than a friend to me (we first met almost 20 years ago in the childbirth ward of a Swedish hospital :) :) ) who uses both draugiem and the Swedish lunarstorm says the latter has more features (nevermind that draugiem, even at 10Mb from Umeå is slow).
Well, we shall see.

Kirils said...

Please, let me point out an important problem w/ the possibility to earn GOOD money w/ the draugiem.lv project.

Statistics were in a nice way misused by you when saying "10 % of the whole f**king population". Let me note that Latvia has a f**king population of only 1.9m. The rest 0.5mil is a non-f**king population, but what's most important they are not earning a cent, so have [ no own | almost no ] money to spend.

Statistically, more than a half of draugiem.lv users are the non-f/e pop. of LV.

If draugiem.lv would invest more money in client service, security and - what's most important for the average ( potentioal | past ) user of draugiem.lv - stability, I'm sure more and more business people would take up using draugiem.lv.

CaptSolo said...

The idea is quite radical and some of it may even work. But hasn't Apollo already bought draugiem.lv?

Juris Kaža said...

I don't think draugiem.lv has been sold. Lattelekom hosts them, however, and probably has had some thoughts of merging the service, maybe into Apollo.

Ramūns Usovs said...

now that is a nice idea :)

CaptSolo said...


According to what I have heard they have bought it as a part of package of different things.

A question arises though - even if that is true (maybe my info is wrong, who knows...) is it so easy for Apollo to integrate draugiem.lv into what they have? Application integration and synergy are probably both the biggest challenges and greatest rewards of the IT industry.

Anonymous said...

to CaptSolo,

u r quite right that apollo has bought them.
it was last year when the bum was starting and they were having huge server problems.
I even heard a number for what they sold their business.

however, it appears, that they did not sold all shares, but are having a joint venture or smth.
therefore they surely have all necessary resources to develop their business,
that, in my opinion, could and has to be improved.
there definately is a lifecycle for this project, and it won' t last forever.

hellijs said...

Friendster in 7th March 2005 announced the availability of Friendster Blogs, a free weblogging service that enables members to easily create and share online journals with friends (like www.livejournal.com). Lauris (draugiem.lv) mentioned the same for them few weeks ago. Yahoo! also are testing its own blog service - Yahoo 360°. So, new products will refresh the service... and make big money of it, becouse of new trend - "socialize". www.myspace.com and www.linkedin.com are the proof.

Juris Kaža said...

Lauris mentioned blogging features when he spoke to Dienas bizness, my "day job". I think it would be smart to start something like that to keep the present audience involved, also to develop some kind of ads that accompany the blogs (like google adsense).

hellijs said...

Free weblog services is common thing - they are giving space and tools for users, and selling ads and more space for blogs and galleries. Even in Estonia they have they own free weblog service http://www2.blog.ee/ (using Moveable Type system). In Latvia we haven`t any (except http://www2.blog.ee/ and yo.lv, but it`s dead already). Sure, it`s free market.

hellijs said...

correct: In Latvia we haven`t any except http://journal.bad.lv...

Juris Kaža said...

Blogger works in Latvian. I experimented with a blog I wanted to set up as an internal thing for DB, You get all the laviešu burti (Latvian letters) and garumzīmes and mīkstinājumi (diacriticals). So blogger.com is one way. Trouble is, aside from feedpages, there is no real overview of Latvian bloggers and bloggers in the Latvian language (or people writing in Russian from Latvia). Almost all languages, Chinese, Thai, weird stuff of all kinds seem to work on blogger.

hellijs said...

some latvians use live journal, some - blogger, wordpress (needs your own server). i like moveable type and/or typepad. even if there`s no any overview of blogging in latvia, i believe there`s a lot of them/us. so, draugiem.lv could be the first one who could develope and support blogs evolution in latvia.

Juris! interesting topic could be "Blogging for food". as you know, there`s a lot sucessfull blogs (http://www.gizmodo.com/, http://www.theregister.com/ etc) out there, and a lot of new private internet magazines using blog applications. google`s adsense is just one impact to help to develop professional oriented blogs. third of americans already know what is blogs. i heard that there`s about 10 000 000 blogs already around the world. and also new fenomenas - podcasting, videoblogs and audoioblogs - are in the market (check first exapmles in Latvia - http://www.jaffa.lv - (to draugiem.lv: think about it))!