Why India’s latest microblogging site ZaraBol is destined to #FAIL

Rediff, an India-based portal, has lost its way. Though it had a brief poster boy image amongst India’s web properties, it never really innovated except for a redesign of its website and pestering its users with slideshows.

Now let’s see what Rediff has been up to. There is email, there’s content and there’s search. Of late I was told that Rediff has started daily deals site (who isn’t) and now a microblogging site. Before I get to the microblogging site ZaraBol, let’s see how others are doing.

Email: I can’t remember anyone still using Rediffmail. Everybody I know is using Gmail for its clean user interface and simplicity. Now I don’t know a whole lot of people, but what I know about user interfaces and simplicity tells me that people who are exposed to both Gmail and Rediffmail would rather use Gmail. A share of email providers in India would have been handy, but my gut feeling says Rediffmail isn’t that popular.

Search: Now this is funny. Some of you who are reading this might surprised that Rediff actually does search too. Just yesterday, Google went down for a brief period and everybody was looking for alternatives. Only two alternatives emerged: Microsoft’s Bing and DuckDuckGo.

When I tweeted about how many people actually used Rediff search while Google was down, the responses were hilarious.

Content: This has been a biggie. Rediff used to break news. Or rather, people used to go to Rediff for breaking news. Now Rediff isn’t even in the running. People are going to local sites if it is a local issue, or to IBN Live and the Twitter-inspired FirstPost.

Before I pass my judgment on Rediff’s content and its lousy slideshows, let me put it to you readers… Do you consume any of Rediff’s content?

That brings us to daily deals and the microblogging site. Everybody is doing daily deals so I don’t blame Rediff for it. All I can say is, it’s a little late for someone like Rediff.

Rediff’s latest venture is ZaraBol, a microblogging site which is inspired by Twitter. Now there’s no dearth of microblogging sites. India already has its own microblogging site called SMSGupShup which is doing well. Could ZaraBol be a hit?

Rediff’s Zarabol is dead on arrival (DOA). It might gain a few lakh subscribers but beyond that there’s no real impetus. First, there is the hugely popular Twitter, thanks to Shashi Tharoor, Mallika Sherawat and Shah Rukh Khan. It’s hard to even dent Twitter’s audience, let alone think about jostling it.

Second, Zarabol doesn’t offer anything new. Except for a ‘Made in India’ tag, there isn’t anything which would make Indians flock to it. I would have been impressed if Zarabol had a 145 character limit. You know, just to say they’re different. They might have had this to say.

Twitter allows only 140 characters. But Zarabol gives you 145 characters. That 5 characters could save a life.

But no. Rediff stuck with 140 characters. You know why Twitter had 140 characters in the first place? It’s is because of the 160 character limit on text message and Twitter wanted to ride on the mobile text message backbone. Read this to find out why there’s a 160 character limit on text messages.

Third, Rediff couldn’t even get a fancy url. You know ZaraBol would have been a lot cooler. But it chose to have a sub-domain.

But Sina Weibo is a hit in China…
Yes. Sina Weibo is a hit in China. But it has something Chinese in it. The blogging on Sina Weibo happens in Chinese. On Rediff’s Zarabol, the blogging doesn’t happen in Indian. Of course, you can bask under the excuse of India having so many languages but that doesn’t help your cause, does it?

I would have been happy if Rediff has at least launched its site with support for at least 10 Indian languages. Now that’s a differentiator which Twitter might not be willing to match.

By the way, ZarabBl is a hindi for “say something”. I did just that. Now it’s your turn.