Twango: Hoping for a Late Bloom

Have you been longing for a souped-up combo of YouTube, Flickr, Shutterfly, Photobucket, and Xdrive? Us neither…but a Redmond, Washington-based company called Twango is hoping to turn heads with a digital-locker/social-sharing hybrid for video, audio, images, and anything else.

Twango adds a whole bunch of useful options to get content on and off its site in both public and private ways. Though the competition has already seen large-scale success, Twango comes nearly fully formed, like a professionalized version of the last five years of experimentation.

Though Twango (not to be confused with Twingo, which I also read about today) knows it’s late, it hopes the market is less than saturated. Only seven percent of the 17.1 billion digital images made in 2005 were posted online, according to the Photo Marketing Association. “I think there’s an enormous amount of web-savvy people who have not made a selection yet or who have dabbled,” Twango co-founder Serena Glover said in an interview yesterday.

Glover is one of five ex-Microsoft employees who founded Twango in 2004. The 12-person company is currently self-funded, though it plans to raise money later this year. It opened up a public beta in April and has attracted a few thousand users since then.

We recently covered another startup with Microsoft connections, Wallop, which is doing parallel things in the social networking space.

Twango offers embedding, tags (including geotags), conversion to iPod-compatible files, mobile uploads (only for Windows Mobile right now), and a variety of widgets (an API is due by the end of the year). Its most interesting additions are broad file support, a la digital-locker-type site like Streamload or Xdrive, and extremely granular access settings.

Twango supports 111 file types (Glover says the company will add anything to the list but executables). My top feature request would definitely be native support for files like Word docs and PowerPoint slides, so they could be displayed right from the page (see TechCrunch on a related product called SlideShare today). For now, anything but audio, video, and images shows up only as an icon.

On the access settings front, Twango gives you the option to organize media into channels, for which you can designate individual people as viewers, contributors, or moderators. Outsiders who aren’t registered with the site can upload attachments directly to a channel if they know its email address (though it’s not hard to imagine spam forcing this feature out). That’s in contrast to a site like Snapfish, where you have to register to simply view photos. Twango also remembers useful things like which items you’ve shared with a certain person, or all the places you’ve commented.

Twango is free for now, with 250 MB per month of uploads and unlimited storage. Advertising, premium subscriptions, exporting to print or DVDs and CDs, and synchronization are planned for the future. The big problem, of course, is figuring out how to tap into massive growth. Traffic and loyalty are a lot more important to profitability than features.

We know many of you are as fed up as we are with the onslaught of new lookalike companies and sites, but let us know if this is something you think you’ll try.

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