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Bubbly spills across India, into Asia

Success of "voice-based Twitter" abroad confirms our cultural differences

Technology trends and news by Matt Bowman
March 11, 2010 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/e54

 If all the world’s billion plus tweets were converted to audio, I’d stock up on ear plugs. Apparently, though, that’s because I live in the U.S.

In India, voice-based microblogging service Bubbly is spreading like wildfire with almost no marketing. It reached 500,000 users in its first four weeks, thanks largely to early adoption by some of Bollywood’s biggest stars.

The service lets users follow their friends, celebrities, etc, who post public or semi-public voice messages. Users can post a message for free, and followers get an alert when the message is ready. If they choose to listen, they get charged by their carrier for the airtime.

Having all but burned out on Twitter, the prospect of listening through other people’s public voice message—messages that I know aren’t directed specifically to me--is rather unappealing. It’s just not how I use the medium; ears are for music and for live communication, not for news that I scan more quickly with my eyes.

Maybe that mentality is why Bubbly has chosen to skip the North American and European markets. CEO Thomas Clayton is instead focusing expansion efforts on India, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil, which have fast-growing mobile-savvy markets and, in many cases, far less access to the web. Globally, there are 4 billion mobile phone users, and only 1.7 billion Internet users (thanks Liz). If all I had was a cell phone (that couldn't browse the web) and no computer, all of a sudden audio updates sounds more appealing. Add to that the lower literacy rate in India (61%) and the growth there makes even more sense.

Bubbly is an extension of Bubble Motion’s BubbleTalk, which lets users leave voice messages for friends, bypassing live conversation. That service has over 100 million users. Both products are bundled into carriers’ services and charged through normal billing. Bubble motion takes a cut of the revenues.

The company has offices in Mountain View, CA and Singapore, and has raised $35 million from Sequioa Capital, Comcast Interactive Capital, and others.

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