Kinja is the Nick Denton project from early 2004 that, paraphrased from his own words, didn’t quite make it. It lags behind the other Gawker properties by a hefty amount of traffic and just never got off the ground the way Nick, Meg or the web industry envisioned it would. Denton felt it was a flop, but in many ways its business goals and technology were far ahead of its time. If Kinja were launched/re-launched now it would need to compete with the likes of Bloglines, My Yahoo!, My Web 2.0, Delicious (okay, so all of Yahoo!) and a host of other “web 2.0″ aggregators and homepages. Here are some key elements that, if executed properly, might make Kinja mighty again.
Go For The Whole Audience
One of the things we try to do with 9rules is not bombard the user with technical jargon they probably don’t know or care about. A trend for many “web 2.0″ applications or companies today is to throw terms like tagging, AJAX, folksonomy, and others out in front of the actual functionality of the service, however if you look at the 9rules.com homepage you’ll notice we don’t say things like “tags”, “AJAX”, “RSS” because we don’t feel as though catering to the tech-savvy audience is really our goal. From my experience, many people/companies from the Bay Area appear insulated from the outside, non-technical world, thus many of these “web 2.0″ companies are starting up and flaunting their technology ahead of what they actually do or how they are solving an actual need. The 5% of people who know what RSS is probably already use 9rules or read our members’ sites, so (in a very non-”web 2.0″ way!) we’re going after the 95% who don’t.
Kinja does a great job of keeping their priorities in check — I don’t think I saw the letters RSS at all on their website. Maybe it’s because they’re also an east coast company ;) When you add a new favorite to your list, it doesn’t ask for the RSS feed but rather the URL of the actual weblog you want to add. I assume that if you don’t have a
<link rel="alternate"> in your code that it won’t pick it up, but I’m not sure about that. Either way, I really admire the simplicity and the foresight behind the decision to add entire sites and not just RSS feeds. It definitely makes it more accessible to the average user who may not know the process behind subscribing to a site by way of their feed.
What Kinja Doesn’t Have
Kinja is lacking the social interaction functionality that so many new web applications are now based on. Readers are able to view what other Kinja users are reading (if their digests are made public) but there’s no way to interact with other users. I’d like to see some sort of a network map of what people are reading — which weblogs are the most popular, an easy way to subscribe to other blogs that are related to what I currently subscribe to, etc.
I like tagging, but I don’t find it as revolutionary as everyone else does. That being said, the “web 2.0″ netizens would probably appreciate it if Kinja had a slick tagging implementation like Flickr because it makes finding content a lot easier. Some other killer features would have to be added as well just so Kinja doesn’t turn into an A.C.C.U.S.E. company.
I don’t know if Kinja is still in active development, but I think it’s a nice piece of property that could be expanded upon and grown into something quite extraordinary. The backend infrastructure was developed using J2EE frameworks, the user interface was put together by 37signals, and the parent company is Gawker Media, so the potential is definitely there for a major turnaround if Denton wants. As for if it actually happening, we’ll have to wait and see.