The Name Game

Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, said yesterday at the NATPE Mobile Conference:

“This is the year MySpace is going to go mobile. You can see them interacting on their computer, now want to extend that to the phone… We want to empower MySpace screen names to supplant mobile numbers.”

This statement was made in the midst of the recent revelation that AOL “is building a platform off its massively popular AOL Instant Messenger service to better enable its users to share and create content… It’s expected to blend all manner of AOL content offerings with the user-created content, conversation, and community that define social-networking sites.”

While the possibility for AOL to “be the one Big Media player to create, rather than buy, its own social network” is a notable insight, as this BusinessWeek article suggests, a more subtle ramification of these two stories is the importance of the name space.

User/Screen names are a key component in any social software network – at the core, they identify who is behind a particular profile, page, IM, or other communication unit. AOL is now waking up to the large asset which it has possessed for years. And MySpace sees how they can leverage their emerging name space onto a future mobile platform. Though typical individual users carry with them a number of screen names, the set of these used is limited. Consequently, there is power in owning and extending a network’s influence and ability to connect people through leveraging the name space. While fully supplanting mobile numbers is a lofty and challenging goal to say the least, FIM’s aim (no pun intended) is entirely reasonable: connecting people through your own platform in lieu of another reinforces the value of the original network itself. The name space is a valuable one, as it provides an elegant way to manage identity and connection which other methods do not.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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