Aka Aki: Mobile Social Networking "Auf die straße"

akaakilogo.pngMobile devices remain social networking’s final frontier. There have been a few mobile applications coming out of the established players (Facebook), but social networking on the mobile phone has largely been an area for new entrants. They’ve included Loopt, Bluepulse, Zyb, MocoSpace, and SK telecom’s own Helio.

Aka Aki is a relatively new German mobile social networking startup running a private beta in Berlin. They aim to take social networking “to the street” (auf die straße), letting you discover and connect with other members as you go about your daily routine.

The service has two components: mobile and web. You can use the site as a standard social network (messaging, friending, etc), but the real differentiator comes from their Java/Bluetooth mobile application.

After you set up a profile with some salient details, Aka Aki uses your phone’s Bluetooth to find similar users who come within 20 meters (~65 ft.) of you. Then you can use the application to page through each of these profiles and connect with them. It’s reminiscent of Proxidate, the mobile dating service that alerts you of singles that enter within your Bluetooth’s range. Naturally, the Aka Aki is ideal for people who frequent crowded social spots such as bars, concerts, and parties.

However, the model comes with some significant drawbacks. Aka Aki’s can leave phones open to attacks over open Bluetooth connections and the users open to unwanted solicitations as they broadcast their profile everywhere they go. Aka Aki’s 20 meter limit makes it useful for random meetings instead of keeping tabs on friends. It also means you have to find yourself in those crowded spaces with other members fairly frequently to find it useful.