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The Kickstart hangover

Yahoo doesn't need another social network. It needs one that works.

Last night, Yahoo's quasi-independent technology incubator, Brickhouse, launched a new social network for college students and college alumni: Kickstart. It is a professional network for the college crowd: it's supposed to help students, alumni, and recruiters all connect to share job information. It looks like the strict Venn intersection of Facebook and LinkedIn. (News story: Yahoo Kickstarts a social service aimed at college grads.)

It's a good idea, but only in a vacuum. If there were no LinkedIn, and Facebook were tiny, and Mash (see Yahoo finally gets a good social network) didn't exist, it might make great sense. But there are too many social networks already, and what makes a social network work is not its features but its people. I don't get how Kickstart is going to win over an audience as long as Facebook has a lock on the college demographic.

Kickstart is a professional social network for college students. As such, it's boring. But if it helps you get a job, then yay boring!

Since I'm not convinced that Kickstart can collect the user base it needs, it may seem just mean to also kick its feature set, but by current standards Kickstart is weak there, too. You can't even invite people who aren't already on the system (although it's easy to join if you have a Yahoo account). About all you can do right now is create a profile with your educational and work-related affiliations, see the same for your connections, and then message people in your network

Meanwhile, Yahoo has this other social network, Mash, that's not connected to Kickstart. And if you play on one network, you're going to be mighty irked when you have to recreate your profile and network on the other service, even if the whole idea is that the networks are supposed to be different: one for fun, one for work.

What Yahoo really needs for Kickstart is some way to integrate with existing social networks. You know, like OpenSocial. Then, theoretically, Yahoo could make it easier for users to join their specialized social network without having to completely recreate their online persona (unless they wanted to).

But for the moment, Kickstart seems like a project from before the Peanut Butter Manifesto. That is to say, not what Yahoo needs.

See also: Center Networks on Kickstart.