Every so often I open up Gmail’s spam folder to see if anything important has been misdirected there. Typically, I find at least one notification email from Renren (NYSE:RENN), the faded-out ‘Facebook of China’, coming from another unknown URL among its apparent suite of domains.
Last year, there were Renren notifications coming from xiaonei-inc.com (a defunct URL from its first name when it was a campus-oriented social network; but xiaonei.com still redirects to renren.com). Then, this April, I began receiving Renren notification emails from its Tongxueshuo domain, which hosts an under-publicized student-focused mobile messaging app.
Just last week, I received another Renren notification email from rrimg.com, and then, from a similarly odd domain, xnpic.com. Although both initially appeared to be unused domains, I was able to dig up an assortment of image links – many pointing to live subdomains of rrimg.com and xnpic.com – via a web portal for Chinese in Canada. Goodneess knows what they’re for, but it points to Renren’s pivot away from its one social media site and towards its long-term goals with specialist social apps and smartphone games.
Diversifying the ailing social network?
Finally, over the weekend, I received a Renren notification from 5q.com, another redirect to renren.com, but then I also stumbled upon uume.com, which is a new site that’s home to a video sharing and filtering mobile app called GuangYingDV (pictured above), launched this past November. Interestingly, this app appears to have launched video effect filtering two months before US-based Vine, and eight months before Instagram Video. But Renren’s GuangYingDV doesn’t limit videos to just a few seconds, and instead is more like the social video apps of the past few years that have already tried and failed to capture people’s imagination. Still, it’s too bad Renren didn’t publicize this app more effectively – or launch it earlier – and offer an English-language interface. Just another unfortunate failure of a Chinese tech company to take the rest of the world seriously.
Try and try again
Regardless of this speculation regarding Renren’s mobile strategy, every time that it sends notifications from a new and unknown URL, I get to investigate an intriguing (and sometimes hidden) project, but I also have to set up new email filters to avoid sending Renren notifications to my spam folder. I can’t keep up with all of their domains, however, and although I rarely use their social network these days, this has still made me miss important messages, such as a friend’s recent wedding invitation.
So, what’s going on, Renren? Are you building out new mobile offerings on these domains to balance your ailing social network, which got left behind in the rush to Twitter-like Sina Weibo? And why was your video app so late? Needless to say, making me dig Renren notifications out of my – and others – spam folders is not the best way to introduce new products and services.
(Editing by Steven Millward)