Online Communities and eCommerce

Reports are surfacing that solidify a connection between social networks and e-commerce. Not surprisingly, people who hang out together online sometimes talk about shopping, and discuss products, and share recommendations. Some branding efforts are starting to incorporate the building of online community into what previously were static sites. But the door is wide open for the development of dedicated online shopping communities that are explicitly about consuming stuff–but still encourage photo sharing, profile building, and other standard perks of social software.

One of these is Yub.com: “Meet. Hang. Shop.” It doesn’t get plainer than that. Yub incorporates elements of social networking with tricks borrowed from affiliate marketing and multilevel marketing (MLM), all packaged in a sort of virtual Sam’s Club. E-Commerce partnerships with such brand heavy-hitters as Dell, Apple, Macy’s, Home Depot, Sony, Target, and many others provide cash-back opportunities for network members that exceed 10 percent in some cases.

Yub has been around for a while, and is operated by Buy.com (note the backward spelling), and is an acronym for Young Urban Buyers.

Microsoft Ejects Chinese Blogger from MSN Spaces

Yet again, an American company is drawing flames for its adherence to local regulations in China. Microsoft has been in this hot seat before. For at least six months the Chinese implementation of MSN Spaces has censored phrases such as human rights from its blog titles. Plenty of American pundits didn’t like that one. Now, a more specific fire has erupted around Microsoft’s blocking of a member’s entire site on Spaces; the censored individual is Zhao Jing, a Chinese freelancer for The New York Times who wrote in his Spaces blog about a December newspaper strike. Presumably (though I haven’t read how the process actually worked), Microsoft received a takedown request from the Chinese government and complied.

It is facile to say that Microsoft should act differently, and rarely acknowledged that an American company operating oversees is operating in a tight spot. Perhaps Microsoft and other American-based online services should pull out of China entirely. The upshot is that it seems intolerable that an American company would participate in such heinous suppression of freedom of speech, no matter how touchy the diplomatic situation.