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Piczo: a safer social network

Piczo: a safer social network

One never knows where social networks will take root. Orkut, for example, ended up huge in Brazil. And a Canadian social network you've probably never heard of, Piczo, was until recently the number one site for teenagers in the U.K. (MySpace just overtook it).

Piczo's new CEO, Jeremy Verba, wants Piczo to spread across the globe, and Piczo is indeed growing nicely. How it's managing to do so is a bit of a paradox.

The system is designed for teenagers, from 13 to 16 years old; Verba doesn't yet want to compete with the older youth markets that MySpace and Facebook control. To keep these young people safe from online stalkers and predators, the network is completely closed. You can't browse for other users, and there's no search function. You can't locate people who go to a particular school or who like a particular band. Users can invite other users to their pages, though. So the social groups tend to remain somewhat walled off from the rest of the world.

This makes sense. If you're a parent, wouldn't you rather have your children playing in a walled garden than in the middle of traffic?

Piczo has a capable page editor. Like MySpace, it doesn't hem you in, and it offers a lot of design control (with very little design guidance) without requiring users to work in HTML. It reminds me of SiteKreator without the templates. I surmise that's what kids want.

Verba thinks Piczo may grow not just in the young teen market but among grownups as well. However, in the older demographic it will compete against Vox and several other more template-driven sites.

Piczo looks like the social network you'd try to nudge your kids to use instead of MySpace or in addition to another social network (Verba estimates that more than half of Piczo's users are also on another network). Although, frankly, I don't know how many social networks our small planet can support. We're going to see at least one more important network at the DemoFall conference tomorrow, and I just heard of another, HedgeStop, that's oriented around entrepreneurship and investing.

For a look inside the Piczo business, see this post on TechCrunch.