Death by Domain: Social Networking Site Chime.in

You may not have heard of Chime.in, but, launched in 2011, this social networking site was presented by its founding company — UberMedia — as a competitor to Facebook and Twitter among others.

One of its early attractions was the promise of revenue sharing. Just as bloggers can earn money from AdSense — with the blogger earning a commission from ads that appear on his or her site — so Chime.in promised to share its ad revenue. 

The revenue sharing idea didn’t come to fruition. But Chime.in was, nonetheless, not a bad social networking site, at least aesthetically. And design counts a lot. So why did it close down in September 2013 (just perhaps to be relaunched some time down the road)?

chimein-death-of-a-social-media-site

First of all, although perhaps slightly more pleasing to look at than Twitter, Chime.in really added nothing new to social networking. True, users were meant to connect around subjects of mutual interest (this was alleged to be a new idea in social networking) rather than around friends and family (a la Facebook). But hashtag use with Twitter, and now with Facebook too, meant that this idea really wasn’t so novel after all.

There were some good things. People of Shambhala had a Chime.in account, and we found it useful for posting links to articles. Images showed up nicely. And while Facebook often has problems displaying smaller images, there was no such issue with Chime.in. That was a big plus.

People also followed on Chime.in, perhaps much more readily than on the major social networking sites.

The biggest problem was, or at least began with, its url. There’s an interesting specialist fashion networking site: theyenvy.us. It’s a cool name that captures the spirit of the site’s users, but you’ll also note the clever use of the domain (dot us), which, in the context of the whole url,is transformed from US (united States) to “us”. No additional dot com or dot org to type. Nice. But, while dot us may not be a particularly desirable domain, They Envy Us nevertheless still retained the cache of being a US-based social network through it.

Chime.in did the same thing, though using the domain for India.

The dot in domain — clever though it may have been in the abstract — seems to have meant that the site was more attractive to Indian citizens than to Americans. And it’s Americans that have, so far, launched social networking sites. Where Americans go online, the rest of the world follows.

Since People of Shambhala has a global outlook, and writes about issues that concern residents of India (as well as those based in the US and elsewhere), we were able to reach that audience directly. It was good for us. But it probably wasn’t so good for, say, US bloggers writing exclusively about local US culture or politics.

Did the domain kill Chime.in? To a large extent it did.

There were other issues, of course. Who knew about Chime.in? Most people didn’t. Chime.in subordinated itself to other social networking sites by allowing people to log in through Facebook or Twitter, when it should have competed more aggressively against them.

But getting known and competing effectively required a different domain. Both Facebook and Twitter use dot com. Dot in is unfamiliar to Americans, and to Westerners more generally, and what’s unfamiliar on the web can be construed as untrustworthy or as irrelevant. How many Americans have ever clicked on a dot in url? Not many. In the day and age of fishing websites, choosing an unknown domain meant the site was always going to fighting an uphill battle for clicks. If Chime In ever comes back, it should use dot com, or present itself as an Indian-focussed social networking site. With India’s rising economy, that could prove a lucrative investment a couple of decades from now.