Caterina Fake is one of the pioneers of Web 2.0, cofounding the early photo-sharing site Flickr. That service has languished since it was bought in 2005 by an even more languishingYahoo, but Fake hasn’t. After leaving Flickr, she cofounded Hunch, which aimed to develop a “taste graph” to personalize the Internet, but then she left last year after Hunch pivoted to a new strategy and was acquired by eBay last November.
Now she has founded Pinwheel, a service launched in private beta last month that lets you “find and leave notes around the world.” She explained more in a presentation and a talk with Federated Media Publishing CEO Deanna Brown at Federated’s Signal SF conference today in San Francisco.
Pinwheel came from a bunch of sources. On Flickr, you can put an annotation over an image, so people would do screenshots of Google Maps or Google Earth and put annotations or stories on them. Also, a lot of social services have ways to leave notes when they check into places. And then there’s geocaching.
On Pinwheel, you can follow people–and later businesses, organizations, blogs, etc. There are also sets, or collections of notes by users–”Art, Love and Literature,” “Hotels,” “Shopping,” and the like. One of the primary uses of mobile media, including Pinwheel, is finding and rating restaurants.
We started out with an actual business model. We plan on having sponsored notes. For example, a Realtor could leave notes for clients on houses or neighborhood amenities.
At Flickr, photos were a social object. A note is something people understand in the real world. It seemed like a very basic thing to be able to do on the Web–a primary activity, not just a subfeature of another service.
Q: How will brands participate in online communities?
Fake: They’re all very different places. It’s best to learn the medium that you’re in, making sure you spend more time listening than speaking, responding to people. You can always tell you’re being marketed to.
Q: Will you run into the flash-sale market?
Fake: This remains to be seen. We want to make sure we build the community. Then we want to see what the desire of the community is for services. Eventually it will make sense for the big brands to be on the platform, but it’s a gradual process.
Q: If a brand approached you today, what would you be able to do?
Fake: What we’re looking for right now are interesting products and promotions that we can pilot with.
Robert Hof, Contributor