Bona

Riding on the hype of social networks, the Israeli Ynet is offering one of its own.

After i experienced a wave of Facebook (FB) adoption by my friends in Israel (probably a few dozens connections in a few weeks + a growing number of articles in the Israeli press), now it seems like there is an attempt to offer something of their own. Today there was another product placement on Ynet, but this time for its newly launched social network for youth – Bona.

To be fair, this is not the first attempt. There was a rather pioneering venture named Hevre (meaning something like friends or buddies) that was launched about two years prior to FB. Although it had a similar idea behind it, the enterprise failed miserably (HE), but was recently acquired (HE article) for about NIS 20 million. Also, there are social networks for kids in Hebrew. My niece, for example, has a page on Tipo, which is kind of a version of MySpace for kids.

Bona is clearly targeted towards the high school teenagers. When you register you are supposed to choose your school with the options ranging between the 10th grade to 2007 alumni.  If you log in you can of course create a profile, communicate with your cohort, and do all the stuff you can do on any typical social networking website these days.  It looks busy and is full of slang that is supposed to make it “cooler” I guess.  And of course it is stuffed with advertising (I saw dating website, gossip pages of Ynet, and random Google advertisement).

So, the bottom line is that there is no revolution, and looking at my school’s group on FB with almost 300 members (most of whom joined in the last few weeks), i wonder what is that Bona offers that others do not?  One thing is clear, that is language (even though there are plenty of groups in Hebrew on FB as well).  But is there anything else?  FB seems to crack the interface and HCI aspects of social networking website for youth.  It is apparently so good that in Russia they copied it practically one-to-one claiming there is no link between the two initiatives.  Bona’s interface, on the other hand, resembles the not-so-successful messy design of Hevre or even the childish design of Tipo.  What it has compared to others, is a marketing machine of Ynet to push it forward.  I wonder, however, if it can actually take off, or FB has that critical mass that will not allow other ventures thrive  regardless of the language barrier.

A few things are interesting about Bona’s timing. First is the timing of its launch. It comes during a prolonged teachers’ strike and is advertised as a panacea from the boredom of strike (interesting set of values right there). It also comes soon after FB caught the titles of media worldwide with Microsoft buying a minority stock in it, and after the website finally arrived to the “Holy Land” (there are real debates going on in the Israeli media about whether it is a positive or negative trend).

But other than timing, i find it hard to see why and how another social network website can take off in Israel, and i wonder if it’s not yet another sign of coming bubble 2.0.  Also i wonder if there are localized social networks elsewhere.  I know there are in Russia, but are there any in other places?

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