Amazon Is Building Its Own Social Network

Twitch Pulse

Twitch, the gaming video focussed video streaming and network site Amazon bought in 2014, is introducing Pulse, a timeline/newsfeed akin to Twitter and Facebook. (More Twitter than Facebook right now: asymmetric following, chronological timeline)

Twitch Pulse 2.png

The Twitch blog:

Introducing Pulse. A place where streamers can post and engage with all of their followers and the greater Twitch community right from the Twitch front page. It’s an always-on way to share clips, stream highlights, schedules, photos, and more so followers are more informed, engaged, and connected.

For streamers, the posts you create on your Channel Feed will also appear on Pulse on the front page to all of your friends & followers. This will allow you to not only interact with followers and viewers you regularly engage with, but also with those who might not visit your channel page as frequently. Channel Feed will be auto-enabled for all streamers in mid-March.

Pulse will begin its rollout TODAY for all logged in users on the Front Page. If you don’t see it immediately, don’t fret! You’ll get it within the next few weeks.

Twitch Pulse 3.png

Watch the introductory video to get a better idea:

This may not seem like a big deal but it (potentially) is.

Here’s a hint: Twitch started as streaming service for streaming video of people playing games and commenting on those. (In fact, Twitch started as the more general interest live video streaming site before pivoting to Twitch and game streaming. This was years before Amazon acquired Twitch.)

In 2015, Twitch started streaming every episode of Bob Ross teaching us how to paint. This is not a big milestone by any means. Just an illustration of how online services can evolve: What starts as a live streaming service and morphs into a social network and streaming service for gamers can, over time, morph into a video destination site. Recently Twitch went back to its roots with introducing a new IRL category for every day live video streaming.

Within a few years, Twitch can become Amazon’s YouTube (and Periscope and Facebook Live), rivaling YouTube (and those others) on the user generated video content front. (For gaming videos it already did and does.)

The same is true for social networks in general: A social network that is attached to videos of people playing games doesn’t have to stay within that ‘niche’ forever. The model (asymmetric connections, timeline) is basic enough to get applied to different kinds of context.

The ‘only’ reason to start with Twitch might be that Twitch is easily the most popular, robust social network within Amazon. It has not just many but young users. Helpful to build a network for the next years and decades. And those users are already spending a lot of time on Twitch.

Twitch is the most promising place for Amazon to kickstart a social network.

The Verge:

If you’re a broadcaster, you suddenly have an easy way to share highlights with fans who missed your last stream — as well as promote your next stream, or anything else you want.

Top Twitch streamers all have over 1 million followers apiece, and it’s easy to imagine them turning to Pulse to grow their audiences and keep them entertained while they’re not broadcasting. But as on Twitter, anyone can contribute, and their posts will appear to friends and followers as well. […]

But if Twitter were ever going to be disrupted, this is exactly what I’d imagine it would look like at the beginning. Take a small but rabid group of core users, bootstrapped off an existing social network, and give them a core subject to discuss. (Recall that Twitter’s initial growth came largely from the San Francisco tech community discussing itself.) Twitch is expanding beyond video games, which means that Pulse will expand beyond video games, too. Throw Amazon’s money — and patience — behind it, and just about anything could happen.

GoodReads, Amazon’s social network around books, could easily be connected to Pulse as well. If Pulse becomes Amazon’s social layer.

Recently -just less than a month ago-, Amazon’s movie database IMDB removed the message boards, citing new features to come in 2017:

The IMDb message boards were disabled on February 20, 2017. This included the Private Message system. IMDb is passionately committed to providing innovative ways for our hundreds of millions of users to engage and communicate with one another. We will continue to enhance our current offerings and launch new features in 2017 and beyond that will help our customers communicate and express themselves in meaningful ways.

(Emphasis by me.)

This could be a coincidence. Or Twitch’s Pulse is meant to become something bigger.

All those (potentially or already on their own) social entities belonging to Amazon could and should be brought together under a new social layer connecting them all.

Imagine an Amazon social network where you can follow your friends and, if you want to, see and comment on:

  • The video games they play and stream.
  • The movies they want to see, have seen, want to see, have reviewed.
  • The books they read and want to read.
  • And so on. (The things they one day want to buy. The interior decoration they like.. etc.)

The connections can go across properties but the social network doesn’t have to look the same everywhere.

(I may follow gamers on Twitch and my friends in general on Pulse. But when I’m on GoodReads, I only see activities by my acquaintances on GoodReads.)

A network becomes more appealing the more members it has. This well-known network effect is the primary reason to deploy a cross-property strategy.

(The only (but arguably strong) argument against this approach being successful are organizational hurdles. These are all very distinct properties run by different teams which never had to work together, let alone coordinate something new that would not only be permanent but would also fundamentally transform the core interactions between users at those services. This is an internal challenge. From a product standpoint, it’s a no-brainer. Also: Amazon is the master of microservices and the internal usage of APIs. If one company can organizationally pull this off, in my eyes, it would be Amazon.)

For some, IMDB, this would mean introducing a completely new layer to the product. (But a reasonable one. Letterboxd, for example, is a social network for movies with a social feed/timeline.) For others, like GoodReads, it would maybe not look like much more than a cosmetic change to the users only interested in GoodReads. (GoodReads already has a central activity feed/timeline with interactions and followings.)

Twitch Pulse 4.png

Once that new social layer exists, it becomes easier to have, for example, something like “Interesting Finds” evolve into Amazon’s own Pinterest.

All sorts of things become easier. Remember Zalando trying to make Instagram photos shoppable? Exactly.

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