Wed, Apr 15, 2009 - Page 11 News List

Wretch growing rapidly despite economic downturn

By Elizabeth Tchii  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite the economic downturn, Wretch (無名小站), Taiwan’s leading social networking Web site, garnered 80 percent year-on-year revenue growth last year and forecasts high double-digit sales growth this year.

“Of course business will slow down somewhat because of the current economic landscape, but we’re poised for another wonderful year and will definitely achieve our pre-set sales goal,” Wretch Chien (簡志宇), the Web site’s founder, said at a press briefing yesterday.

Wretch also officially unveiled an application aimed at users who hope to turn virtual relationships into real personal interactions. “Join” (揪團) allows subscribers to post events and invite friends as well as open up their invitations to the entire Wretch community.

“With a few simple clicks, you can advertise your event, post the date, time, location and the maximum number of people as well as keep track of who will attend your ‘Join’ with a continuous ticker counter,” said Light Lin (林弘全), manager of Wretch’s product team.

Even after the activity has ended, “Join” will consolidate participants’ photo albums, videos and blogs as well as provide a comment board, Lin said.

“Join” does not have any domestic competition in terms of scale or opportunity, though there are similar “meet face-to-face” tools on US social networking sites.

Chien said he hated words like “Web 2.0” after being asked if “Join” meant the company had progressed to “Web 3.0,” as the application combines virtual reality and everyday life.

“To me, Internet development is simply an evolution. I despise naming Web sites, gadgets and features and then dividing them up into Internet periods,” he said.

Chien said his vision was to connect people online first, let them get to know one another and then meet in real life “because no man is an island.”

Despite having little knowledge about the service’s profitability outlook, companies have begun to post promotional events ranging from free film screenings, food tastings, sales and others events via “Join,” Wretch said.

Businesses also have the option of paying Wretch for more comprehensive promotion services.

“Companies want a one-stop shop when it comes to advertising and promotion,” Chien said.

Last year, Wretch launched Digu (嘀咕) — or “complaining” — a service that allows users to write up to 140 characters to express their feelings or tell other users what they are doing at the moment. Digu is similar to Twitter, allowing users to send and read other users’ updates.

“Because of the economic downturn, we are seeing more pessimism on Digu in terms of users complaining about fewer holidays, unpaid holidays, salary reductions and growing workloads,” Chien said. “But honestly, I don’t think the unemployment picture here is as bleak as has been reported by the media.”

Wretch and its related services are accessible via the Internet only, but the company plans to allow smartphone users to connect with their friends through Yahoo Mobile, Chien said.

The company is also planning to open up its Web site to outside software developers to obtain more features and gadgets, he said.

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