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Fotolog, one of the many photosharing sites out there, says it already has four million members. And with no attempts at creating a non-English site, users are mostly in Latin America. (Unintended consequence of a Flat world?) (Update: Fotolog’s site went down for awhile, but is back up now.)
Like Orkut’s sweep of the Brazilian social network market, Fotolog says it has almost a million users in Brazil, 800,000 from Chile, 530,000 in Argentina, and 250,000 in Mexico. That’s all before the site has targeted non-English speaking viewers.
Adam Seifer, Fotolog’s co-founder and Chief Product Officer chatted on the phone to us about doing deals with mobile carriers and working on an early social networking patent in the late 90’s that might overlap with Friendster’s recently filed patent. Here are excerpts from our chat….
Q. Why has the site become so popular in Latin America. Fotolog seems to be one of many companies with this strategy?
A. Actually it was a happy accident. One of the original Fotolog members was a Brazilian journalist and wrote about the site on her blog. From there it spread through Brazil very quickly. But it has been hopping from country to country.
Q. So there was no conscious approach to be the next Orkut, and become popular in Brazil?
A. Orkut has actually become popular in part because of Fotolog, we’ve sent them a lot of traffic.
Q. How will mobile change the site and bring in more users?
A. We did a deal with the top two carriers in Chile, so a user can upload photos just using MMS. We are talking to major carriers in Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., etc. We’ll also be launching a WAP mobile version of the site soon.
Q. There’s already a lot of these sites like Flickr, how is Fotolog different?
A. On Fotolog users can only upload one photo a day, so this brings response and feedback. That photo will likely be interesting and users will check for their favorite user’s photos of the day. On Flickr users upload everything they have and the site is based on tagging and organizing — you put everything you have on the site and your family and friends can see your stuff. But Fotolog is a community based on that once a day photo (concept.)
Q. So you say you were one of the inventors of the original social networking patent?
A. Yes, I was a cofounder of Six Degrees in 1996, a site that is similar to MySpace. Obviously we were way too early, people weren’t ready for that back then. We had a patent and sold the site in 2000. LinkedIn and Tribe then bought that patent a few years later.
Q. So you see some conflicts with that patent and the Friendster patent?
A. It could, I’m not a patent law expert, but it will be very interesting to see what happens if Friendster starts enforcing their patent. It’s really a business decision whether or not companies want to aggressively enforce their patents. Sometimes companies just get patents as a defensive move. But I think social networking in general is pretty hard to patent.
Q. Are you kicking yourself now that a site like MySpace is so big, when you were too early to the market?
A. I think Fotolog can be just as big. Social networks haven’t reached their potential yet. They are interesting not in themselves, but as an engine to fuel other types of behavior. People tend to like what their friends like. So product reviews, content sharing, are well suited to social networks. If you like me, and I like these photos, its a good chance that you will like these photos too.