Online forums might lack the pizazz of a Web 2.0 technology, but the conversations folks hold in them consistently remain on topic. A Boulder, Colorado startup called eSwarm has applied the relevance of forums to microblogging in a grassroots business effort to unseat Twitter –starting at local universities.
The eSwarm Web site went live in August, and the company intends to release client applications for the Blackberry and iPhone by the end of October, said co-founder Matt Etlinger. Swarms look a lot like Twitter, but they’re really microblogs that are managed by the person who initiates them; they can be public or private.
“It is a topic-centric Twitter,” said Etlinger. “People are hungry for relevant conversations, and we offer an organized platform to sort relevant issues and topics.”
A study published by market research firm Pear Analytics last month concluded that 40 percent of Tweets were “pointless babble.” Etlinger believes that Twitter users will come to the same realization, and migrate over to eSwarm.
Twitter has in excess of 4.5 million unique visitors in the U.S.,although that growth may be subsiding. A study conducted by Harvard Research during May 2009 found that 10 percent of active users were responsible for 90 percent of tweets. In other words, Twitter users are generally passive participants.
Even if eSwarm proves successful, it will be a long while before it can be directly compared to Twitter. 20 different student groups are piloting the service at Colorado University, according to Etlinger. Topics typically revolve around news, politics, and popular culture, he added.
The company intends to take eSwarm to other local campuses in Rocky Mountain region, and will promote the service across the U.S. if it sees results, he said. Etlinger noted that Twitter’s age distribution is 35 and older, and believes that eSwarm will prove more popular with young people.
eSwarm is keenly aware that it is the underdog, but there are some benefits to being a late entrant. Users can log in with their Facebook identities, and the site is being built to scale. “Twitter has taught us some big time lessons,” Etlinger said.
Only time will tell whether a startup’s David attempting to take on Twitter’s Goliath during a worldwide economic downturn will be another lesson for those that follow.