Sunday, June 12, 2016

Naver Band, Google Spaces, and some Jandi

I just realized how similar Google's "Spaces" app looks to Naver's "Band."

Naver Band vs. Google Spaces
Naver Band vs. Google Spaces

Both are clearly designed for small-group sharing, and while some people (including me when Band first came out) thought it would be a Facebook rival, it's really not. Most people I know who use Band use it for their particular sub-team at work or college and high school students will make a "band" for their friend group and one for the whole class and sometimes even one for the whole school. They all still have Facebook, but use Facebook more for public or total-friends sharing (normal people still don't seem to get the Facebook "lists" feature).

Update: Well after posting this entry I asked a friend about how he's seen people using Band. He agreed with what I said but added that Band is actually pretty popular with the older middle age crowd, who don't use Facebook. They use Band to reconnect with lost friends from their bygone school days. That's sweet. Though he also mentioned that, alongside this use (or because of it?), there's an open-secret that older married folk will use it for arranging, let's say, "discreet encounters" with other married individuals. Boy maybe I ought to jump on the "Band"-wagon.

Still though, I think it's safe to say that for many people at work and in school, it's just more common to use Kakao group chat rooms still. In fact an article just came out today (June 13) about this:

Ever since her company began using mobile messenger KakaoTalk as a communication tool at work, Kim Jin-ah, 32, has been feeling as if the boundary between work and private life is blurring.
[New chat apps split work, play-INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily]

That article also mentions a new Korean corporate team collaboration app called "Jandi" which I had not heard of. It sure seems a lot like Slack. Take a look at them side-by-side:

Jandi (left) and Slack (right). Images: The Mobile SurgeJANDI

Furthering the similarity, Jandi can also be connected to your Google Calendar, Trello, JIRA, and GitHub accounts, just like Slack. Now listen I've never used Jandi and barely touched Slack, so I can't say anything about them. Plus hey, I could say those screenshots there are Facebook and an RSS reader and you wouldn't notice, such is the standardized "look" for so many apps/sites these days. And hey I've got nothing against clone apps even though I'm not saying that's what these are. But I'm getting off topic now. The biggest red flag is this, yikes:
To distinguish itself from popular messaging apps like KakaoTalk, Jandi applied Internet security certificates often used in online banking. 

If you want more on Jandi, check out this article. I'm not exactly sure I agree with this part though:
One more reason that globally popular platforms like Slack have failed to gain a foothold in Asia, Harry adds, is their grassroots approach to gaining traction, which isn’t very effective for hierarchical Asian teams.
“Slack chose a bottom-up approach to promote its service by distributing press releases and being active on Twitter to reach their target audience. That worked well in the States, but the Asian market is different and needs a top-down approach to convince decision-makers to adopt the use of business-to-business software,” he says.
 - Korea’s Jandi raises US$2.5m to become Slack of Asia
I understand the point, but it's not like management held a big meeting and instructed all teams to start using KakaoTalk at work. That happened organically, from the bottom-up. Though I bet a lot of workers regret that, come nights and weekends when their phone blows up with work related "KaTalk!" notifications.

So anyway, back to Band. I thought it was interesting when Google released "Spaces" this year. The concept is basically Band. My opinion? Band is more "Facebook-y" with all those damn stickers and "shouts" (~ Facebook "Reactions" aka all those new ways to "Like" something). And there are many public Bands that feel like Facebook Groups, for people with shared interests or locations.

But the ideas of Spaces and Band are pretty much the same: a pinboard (cough Pinterest) of mostly invitation-only mini-groups, where you share the invitation link with your friends, they join your and other bands/spaces, and you basically post links/photos and others comment on it. Like Facebook but feels more "exclusive." Like Google+ Collections but feels more private.

I don't see Spaces ever really picking up steam even though it's a nice app and nice concept. What's interesting to me is that Band came first. You could say Naver's smoother modern redesign (I like the name "N-design") has followed Google's concepts and style (Naver really does look more Material Design like lately, though this was really just Google copying Apple's style in my opinion). And yes, Google did tweak their results page on their Korean domain to appeal to a Naver-conditioned audience. But this seems to me like the first time Google has so directly come later to a service/app that Naver had been doing well on. Was Naver ahead of the game here? Is there some big cultural argument about how tighter-knit Asian social groups demand more private group sharing unlike the Western "let it all hang out there" idea of public Twitters and Facebooks (or even Facebook posts to the entirety of one's several-hundred "friends")? Haha I don't know.

What's certain is that Band came out "way back" in 2012 and Spaces in 2016. It might be fair to say Band had some, let's say "influence" on Spaces.  Either way this arena is getting crowded, and from my experience KakaoStory is pretty much being pushed out. But hey I'm no SNS expert. I barely use any of this crap.

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