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If you’ve got friends all over the globe, those buddies are probably scattered across not just lots of nations but also several social media services. It’s even more fragmented if you’re an overseas Chinese, working or studying far from home, as your new workmates or classmates are using stuff that’s blocked in China — like Twitter and Facebook. To bring all these sites, conversations, messages, and buddies together is a new app that launches today called MelonFriends.
Launched initially just on Android, MelonFriends brings Sina Weibo and Renren into the mix with Twitter and Facebook. You can choose to view those streams separately, or aggregate them into one.
It’s a nice idea, though it comes at a time when lots of people are using apps like Whatsapp or WeChat for more and more communication. MelonFriends designer Duan Tingliang – based with the three-man “Melon Sail” startup team in Singapore – tells us that the idea of the app is to keep the group dynamic alive:
The core feature for MelonFriends is to help overseas Chinese to manage their social network connections across China (Renren, Weibo) and overseas (Facebook and Twitter). So the usage of MelonFriends is very different from WeChat and such messaging focused apps. In a nutshell, WeChat is focusing on one-to-one communication with friends (which can be in China or overseas) while MelonFriends is focusing on the sharing, interacting, and managing of one’s entire network of friends. But there are opportunities in the one-to-one messaging business that are worth exploring in future.
To keep the conversations flowing, MelonFriends will add in interest-based ‘channels’ at a later date that work across different social networks. A social shopping/gifting service is also in the works. Duan explains:
For instance one of the channels which I will definitely build and use personally would be “Food back home”. Through this channel, we can introduce users with service providers who give bulk discounts on buying food from China (maybe via Taobao) and overseas shipping solutions for group buying, etc. As such, a channel services not just information but also a viral shopping/gifting solution for overseas Chinese. Eventually, this could extend its reach to overseas Chinese’s connections in China and overseas also.
That social shopping aspect would also be a form of monetization for the app, along with upcoming in-app-purchases for customizations like themes and emoji.
MelonFriends for Android has a two-day exclusive on Chinese app store Wandoujia before launching on Google Play on Wednesday (June 5th).
This article by Steven Millward originally appeared on Tech in Asia, a Burn Media publishing partner.