Could Sociabell be Facebook’s Google+ Killer?

By now you’ve certainly heard about Google’s increasing involvement of Google+ into search.  You may have also heard of the social + search experiment from Microsoft and FUSE Labs called So.cl. Guy Kawasaki dedicates a chapter to social search functionality in Google+  in his book “What the Plus?” (If you haven’t bought this ebook yet, you seriously must. Even if you think you know Google+, Guy knows it better than you. And it’s $3.). Combining the realms of social networking and search is the next evolution in the way we interact online. The most important part of this feature is that you remain engaged with the your social network while searching. Facebook’s search function is severely lacking in this way.

Enter: Sociabell. I found out about Sociabell in one of Social Media Examiner’s This Week In Social Media columns.

Sociabell’s web page highlights its interconnectivity to all things social

Sociabell is a browser add-on for Facebook users who use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. The completely free add-on turns Facebook’s search bar into a social search. When you type a query into the search bar, you will see the standard drop down options that you get from Facebook: people you are friends with, pages you ‘Like’, relevant apps and an option to see more results. What Sociabell does is add another box to the right of Facebook’s standard options and allows you to jump right to other social networks: Twitter,  Craigslist, Google, Yahoo, Bing, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon and Google recommended results (but notice, no Google+). You also have the option to share your search with your friends, which creates a post and allows them to answer your question or recommend a site to find what you’re looking for. When you click on one of the above mentioned social outlets, the results automatically open in another tab, thus allowing you to maintain your presence on Facebook. Although, if you’re like me, you would normally just open another tab to Google something anyway, but allowing you to do it through Facebook’s user interface means you are less likely to navigate away. Sociabell states on its page that the add-on collects no personal data, but it’s not clear to me whether your search through Facebook’s search bar is still being tracked by Facebook. My guess is yes.

This is what Sociabell turns your Facebook search bar into

Sociabell is not currently supported on mobile and the Safari add-on is in the works. Friends only see what you are searching for if you share you search, so you don’t have to worry about Sociabell throwing under the search engine bus. If Google+ is clinging to the social search function as one of their big selling points over Facebook, then this is something that deserves their attention. Facebook should also take notice of Sociabell, since they’re in the “buying up useful things” mode of thinking anyway. The biggest concern that the developers at Sociabell have is Facebook taking their idea and actually finding a way to integrate it into the functionality of Facebook itself. As of right now, this browser add-on is pretty slick, and if I’m Google+, I’ve got my eye on what’s going on here.

Have you heard of Sociabell? Are you using it? Does the idea of being able to search all of your networks from Facebook appeal to you? Chime in below!

Now go get your social on!

Mobile App Review – Path

I use the Nike + GPS app to record my sad attempts at running. It’s nice to have the occasional, “Hey, you didn’t suck as much as last time” motivational shout-outs that it provides at times. Recently, I went to record one of my runs and the app asked me if I wanted to share my run on Path. I saw the below icon, and thought it would be great because, in my post-run haze, I mistakenly thought the icon looked similar to the Pinterest icon. I actually was thinking, if it was associated with Pinterest and would be posting my runs in an album, that would be awesome! It is NOT associated with Pinterest, by the way.

Path not Pinterest
Red and white 'P' does not a Pinterest make...


San Francisco-based 
Path launched in 2010 and, according to its website, the privately held company has a base of about 2 million users. The website goes on to explain that it allows you to keep a personal journal, “or Path”, of your life and should help you authentically express yourself and share your personal life with loved ones Path has a healthy following on Facebook  and on Twitter, as well as over 300 followers on LinkedIn so their online presence and following is pretty well established. It floats dangerously close to Facebook in certain aesthetic aspects. Most notably, Path allows you a “profile picture” and a “cover picture” with the profile picture showing up in a bubble in the lower left corner of the cover picture (example of mine here) on your profile. They may catch flak for that, if they haven’t already.  The feed also resembles Facebook quite a bit, but there isn’t a whole lot of variation available for a feed, I suppose. One area that Path ventures away from Facebook is that is is focused almost exclusively as a mobile interface, rather than on your computer. You can make changes to your profile settings on your Mac or PC, but your feed and your ability to post anything are exclusively on your mobile device. This stems from Path’s focus on being a modern journal for a modern age. It is meant to be with you wherever you go. It has yet to be seen whether a lack of a computer interface will help or hinder Path’s future.My first impression of this app was not a good one. It messed up while registering my account, and reloaded the page, then told me that my email and phone number already existed. I gave up on it until I returned home from my run and saw the email for my registered account. I then decided to give it another go. It got better.

Those facts aside, there are actually some pretty slick features that this app has which make me glad that I moved forward with setting it up.

  1. The creators of Path were smart to allow integration with the other heavy hitters, rather than simply try to compete with them. All of your posts are shareable on Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare. This integration is likely a key success factor for Path.
  2. You have the option to share music that you are currently listening to. When you click the button to do this, Path automatically checks your music player to see what your ARE listening to. It then makes suggestions to post so that you don’t have to search for your song and artist. Occasionally though, if you have a more obscure artist or album, Path can’t find it. I’d be interested to know where they pull their music database from. It does an admirable job for most popular artists, however.
  3. As with most social sites, you can post who are you with (once you’ve found friends on Path), where you are (if you have location services turned on), upload pictures and post comments. You won’t feel too lost using Path if you are already using some of the other major social sites.
  4. Another function, albeit a little bit of a strange one, is the ability to tell friends when you’ve gone to bed and when you wake up. I’m not really sure that I see the use of this outside of people knowing that they can’t bother you because you’ve already gone to bed. I’d love to find out if there is a specific point that Path creators were trying to achieve by adding this feature. If there were a first thing to go in a major overhaul, it would likely be this feature.
  5. All of the above options come from a really cool little pop-up menu in the bottom left corner of your screen. It’s a pretty slick, smooth interface with multiple buttons popping up and going back to being hidden with the touch of a little + or x.
  6. As you scroll through the timeline of events, a little clock pops up to show you the time of each item’s posting. It moves along as you scroll and the little hands furiously move to the next “time stamp” of each post. It’s a fun little feature, actually.
  7. Path offers emoticons that you can add to posts of your own or those of friends. You can add a smiley, frown, wink and surprised face. There is also a little heart option. I would liken this to the ‘Like’ button on Facebook.
  8. The way that Path integrates with Nike + GPS is probably one of the most solid functions Path brings to the table for me, and likely where it can gain an even stronger footing. Once you finish a run while using the Nike app, you can post to your social networks via sharing options within the app (Facebook, Twitter and Path). On Path, a map of your run (example of my own here) gets posted showing your route, your mileage and length of time right on the map! I could see this being a good way to get a bunch of your workout/health nut friends together in one social space and be able to share, cheer each other on, and keep motivated while avoiding the inevitable groans from your Facebook friends (if you post your workouts/runs on your Facebook Timeline.) If you see that a friend is on a run, you can actually click their Path and send them a cheer. And who doesn’t like a little encouragement every now and then?

Overall, I think Path has potential for stay power if they keep the momentum up, and I will likely continue to use it just to see where it may go. I’m interested to see in what ways it “learns” from my activity, which the website claims it will do. I am likely going to have to invite friends so that it becomes fun because, out of my numerous email and Facebook contacts, I’ve found ONE person using Path. I think adding a small bio section and the ability to search other users by interest or location would be greatly helpful in allowing users to add worthwhile connections rather than random. I would love to find other people around Austin using Path.

Being still pretty much in its youth, time will tell whether this becomes the next big thing in social, or if Path simply falls by the wayside as so many do. I can’t say I’m not rooting for it to stay around a little longer though. 

Have you already heard of Path? Are you using it? If not, do you think having a place to share your exercise goals is worth another social network? Chime in!

Now go get your social on!