Mon, Oct 27, 2008 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: Small changes can make a difference

Wretch Chien, the founder of Taiwan’s social networking Web site Wretch, sat down with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Elizabeth Tchii recently to share his views on the current direction of the online social platform as well as its future initiatives. Chien also touched on the firm’s acquisition by Yahoo-Kimo Inc and the future of Internet in Taiwan, while giving advice to Internet entrepreneurs

Wretch Chien talks to the Taipei Times about the future of online social networking during an interview on Saturday.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF WRETCH CHIEN

Taipei Times (TT): What is Wretch (無名小站) and how do you position yourself in the market place?

Wretch Chien (簡志宇): We started out as a photo sharing and blog site, and now we consider ourselves as a service provider. We’re not just a virtual company. In fact, we’d like to think of ourselves as being in the business of making lives better online and in real life.

TT: Wretch has several initiatives this year to facilitate communication. Can you give a brief introduction of these initiatives?

Chien: We have built identity through extensive user profiles featuring photos. Once profiles are built, we encourage members to reach out and connect based on similar education, work experiences, hobbies, characteristics and other commonalities. To provide numerous tools and methods for users to engage with one another, we have recently introduced a new service, Digu (嘀咕), which is basically a light-weight communication tool similar to Microsoft’s Instant Messenger. You can basically “Digu” anyone you want, anytime you want.

TT: What about 2009?

Chien: Next year, Wretch wants to roll out more social networking functions and group events. Currently our movies, food and beauty groups are well established and members frequently have activities sponsored by corporations. Next year, we want to help other groups gain momentum as well and build strong communities.

We are also working on creating interactive tools and gadgets to automatically link people together based on something they have in common, rather than have members passively searching. Tools that allow them to leave text messages to each other are currently under development. Then from text, we can move to voice. Hence videophone is the next possibility as members get more comfortable socializing on the Internet. But right now the predominant culture on Wretch is still relatively conservative.

Also, a major endeavor next year for Wretch is the concept of openness.

Without the need for technical Web site building skills, Wretch will make simple tools and building blocks to help users easily create their own Web sites and provide services to other Wretch users. In the near future, individuals and small businesses can just focus on innovation and core values through open application program interface (API) on Wretch.

TT: What new and innovative ideas are you working on at the moment?

Chien: Most networking sites only focus on the past and present, Wretch would like to see if the future could be tapped. For example albums and blogs are focused on past events, while Digu is more real-time and can be thought of as focused on the present. I’m constantly thinking about how we can focus on the future and what tools would allow our users to talk about the future.

The concept of six degrees of separation really melts down relationship distances between users. Can you imagine that through six people I can be linked to [US presidential candidate Senator] Barack Obama?

If Obama had a Wretch account, I can definitely connect to him via our platform. The overall cost of Internet engineering is going down. It is becoming easier than ever to calculate how many people are one degrees, two degrees and three degrees away from you. Our site is focused on this concept to link users whose paths would never cross together.

TT: How extensive is your membership base? Wretch has an image of being a young people’s site, what are you doing to reach out to older Internet users in Taiwan?

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