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Website of The Week

Easywriting.co.uk, January 19, 2010

Blippy.com is a new social network that answers a simple question: “what are your friends buying?” The venture was founded by Philip Kaplan, Ashvin Kumar and Chris Estreich and the service launched on the 12th December 2009

So how does it work? Superficially, it looks a lot like Twitter. Once you’ve signed up, you can follow others, see what they’re buying, where they bought it, and how much they’ve spent. You can then add comments or questions to any transaction.

It’s a controversial idea. Your Blippy account can be ‘linked’ with banks, credit cards, and large online stores such as Amazon and iTunes. Any purchase you make is added to your Blippy stream which can be publicly shared or shown to those people you approve. The site recommends that you also retain a ‘private’ credit card to save embarrassment about certain purchases or secret gifts.

In many ways, Blippy achieves something Twitter does not: passive sharing. You don’t need to post updates or even have internet access — your location and behaviors become visible by the things you buy. The founders have already experienced opportunities and unexpected consequences of using the service:

* The information is far more interesting than a typical tweet.
* It allows you to see what your friends are buying. You know where there are and what interests them — which could be useful for gift ideas.
* You can find online deals or discover whether you’ve been ripped off.
* It could become easier to track stolen credit cards.
* Valuable commercial data can be collated and analyzed. An API is planned so it will eventually be possible for companies to recall your previous visits and purchases. It could mark the end of store loyalty cards.

However, there are several big hurdles that could affect Blippy’s success. Are people willing to have their buying habits tracked? I accept large stores are already doing it, but making the information public is another matter. I suspect the younger generation would be more eager to share their whereabouts and what brands they’re buying, but the service is limited to those who purchase goods via credit card. Few teenagers will be able to use the service.

Passive sharing is a great idea and many social networks are likely to adopt similar techniques and technologies. But do you want to advertise your daily location and activities? I’m sure burglars would be especially interested in that information!

Finally, security will be the biggest concern for most users. Although they make strong statements about privacy and security, you still need to register your bank, credit card, store IDs and passwords with Blippy. I doubt many will share that information especially when they read Blippy’s terms of service:

“You understand and agree that you use the Site and Services at your own discretion and risk and that you will be solely responsible for any damages that arise from such use.”

Banks are continually advising customers to keep their IDs and passwords secret; few will understand or compensate you for security issues caused directly or indirectly by Blippy’s service.

Would you use Blippy?  Is it a great concept or too controversial? I am signing up now!!

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