ZooLoo Is A Social Network That Basically Never Wants You To Leave

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What The Hell Happened To The Free Version Of Google Apps?

logoSince you see it every time you open your web browser, a good start page is key. Google has a pretty good option with iGoogle, which is highly customizable. But as social networking continues to rise in popularity, an increasing number of people just have something like Facebook as their main page. ZooLoo is kind of like iGoogle meets Facebook.

When you set up your ZooLoo account, you are given a dashboard which contains customizable widgets just like iGoogle. But you’ll see along both the top and bottom of the site elements that lead you to the more social aspects. Along the bottom, is your Facebook-style chat bar and options area. At the top of the main page you’ll find the tools to control your site and manage your media (pictures and videos).

And the key two words in there are “your site.” ZooLoo clearly wants to give you everything you want, so you never have to leave your ZooLoo. You want to watch YouTube videos? You can browse and watch them from in ZooLoo. Hulu videos? Same thing. Maybe you want to go read some news on popular tech blogs like this one? Again there’s a series of widgets you can install so you can do all of that without leaving.

Obviously, it’s a good idea in theory as users spending more time on the site means more ads that can be shown to them. And ZooLoo has plenty of those — big ones at the bottom and sides of the site. It’s the same line of thinking that Facebook has, in that it wants to be your central hub for everything on the web.

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The problem with that for ZooLoo is that Facebook has about a 200 million user head start on their social graph. For a service like this, that is all that really matters. That’s not to say that ZooLoo can’t woo some of those users with some nice features, but it’s hard to teach 200 million users new tricks. And while it’s not a “there can be only one”-type situation, if ZooLoo is trying to do the same thing that Facebook is, which one do you think will win?

And obviously it’s not just Facebook in this game as well, they’re just the big guys right now. But Google is still trying to get more social too, and continues to take iGoogle in that direction. Again, the choice between Google or ZooLoo as your main hub, doesn’t seem like too tough of one right now.

But ZooLoo is smart to play off of the vanity URL thing. Its slogan, “Your name. Your domain. Your life.” doesn’t seem to be an accident. As we saw from the users flocking to Facebook on a Friday night to secure their own vanity names, users clearly want domains that are easy to remember. And ZooLoo offers that up with the slightly different XXXXX.zooloo.com naming structure.

But its real hidden weapon may be letting users pick any domain to use with the service, not just a zooloo.com one. That’s an option if you sign up for the paid version of the service, ZooLoo Plus. For $29.99, you get to select a .com, .net or .info domain (.me names are available too for slightly more money).

The freemium model hasn’t exactly taken off in the traditional social networking market. But ZooLoo gives you some things that are a bit more like an online office service, such as calendaring.

There’s no shortage of options on ZooLoo, but you have to wonder if it can possibly meet such lofty goals with going up against Facebook and Google. Of course, they used to say that about Facebook going up against MySpace. And MySpace against Friendster, before that.

ZooLoo should be live at some point later today.

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