This week I received an invitation to Swipely’s closed beta (request one here). As a fan of its closest competitor, OBR Best of the Web winner, Blippy (note 1), I’ve been looking forward to testing out the newest entrant.
Both services allow you to register ecommerce accounts, including credit or debit cards, so that transactions can be streamed to your friends and family, or the whole world if you so choose (note 2). Detractors cannot figure out why anyone would want to do that, but that’s also what people said about Twitter, which is now approaching 200 million worldwide monthly visitors.
But I’m convinced the naysayers simply haven’t used Blippy or Swipely. The startups are simply convenient platforms for sharing interesting experiences, downloads, or purchases. It’s not the collapse of privacy as we know it (that would be Facebook). The typical Blippy/Swipely user might stream their Netflix queue, iPhone downloads, or a meal eaten at a local favorite.
Contrary to what you might read, there is very little oversharing. Generic posts such as “spent $7.29 at CVS” are rare. Sure those people exist, just like the Twitter users sharing what they had for breakfast, but they are the exception. Like Yelp or Facebook, most users strive to share things that are interesting to both them and others (note 3).
Providence, RI-based Swipely, which has already raised $8.5 million in capital, encourages users to comment and rate purchases on a 5-point scale. If it catches on, Swipely could build a database of user experiences and merchant ratings that challenges Yelp or TripAdvisor (note 4).
Bottom line: Will the services prosper? I think semi-automated transaction sharing is here to stay and will become a standard feature in larger social communities, e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. It also makes sense as part of larger OFM/PFM efforts (note 5).
I also think there is a place for limited transaction sharing among customers of financial institutions, primarily among joint account holders and employees of smaller businesses (see previous post).
On the other hand, I’m not sure if Blippy/Swipely will become popular destinations on their own. It’s more likely they’ll end up powering services baked into other sites. That said, if the startups can figure out how to get the Internet masses to make the effort to rate and post millions of transactions, they could become household names.
Swipely transaction stream across all users (7 June 2010)
Note: My just-posted transaction is at the top of the stream
1. See Blippy’s FinovateSpring 2010 demo here; see previous posts here.
2. Swipely doesn’t currently support direct downloads from ecommerce accounts, but you can forward email receipts to the service for posting.
3. Both services offer a mix of automation and manual entry to make sure the posting process isn’t too much of a burden, but keeps things relevant. On Swipely, the default privacy setting is for the user to manually approve each transaction before it is posted. And in contrast to Blippy, the amount of the transaction is NOT included in the post.
4. You can understand why the VCs are investing.
5. See our most recent Online Banking Report for more on Online Financial Management Features for Online Banking.