You have probably never heard of Pownce, yet its name is plastered all over the Internet this morning – including in highly respected publications like the Financial Times. Pownce is a social networking site which has bitten the dust. It has been bought by a blogging company called Six Apart which announced that the Pownce service would be withdrawn in two weeks time.
Do you care? Does anyone really worry about this? Pownce was set up as a competitor to Twitter. As the use of Twitter has grown, so the popularity of Pownce has fallen. Alexa results show that Twitter is in the Top 750 web sites in the world; Pownce fell below the 100,000th position back in June – and never recovered.
So what was the problem? The difficulty was Pownce tried too hard to be different. It offered what Twitter provides (micro blogging) but added file sharing, networking and bookmarking in the mix. In other words its offering was unfocused.
If people want to file share, they use a file sharing services. If they want to network with friends they go to Facebook or MySpace. If they want to send small blog updates, they go to Twitter.
The Pownce demise is symptomatic of what happens regularly online. People try to copy other businesses, but add things or include extra features making their offer so complex people find it difficult to cope. Remember what happened to the increasingly complex Yahoo! when the simple Google arrived?
Lack of simplicity is the principal reason why many online businesses fail. Pownce lasted a little over 18 months but was overtaken by services which were much clearer (and were focused on a single task). This is an important lesson to everyone online; provide your audience with only one theme, or idea, or product and you will do well. Have a web site that provides “everything” and is complex and you will go the same way as Pownce. Focus, focus, focus – or say bye-bye to those profits.