College Tonight, the new social network for college students that recently went public through a reverse merger, has started to reveal the mobile features intended to make its service more “social” than Facebook and other traditional social networks.
The company has announced a deal with click-to-call widget provider, and phone number obfuscater, Jangl that will 1) enable students to call each other without revealing their phone numbers and 2) allow them to leave voicemails for each other that they can later recall. This latter feature is referred to as the “drunk dial” feature because students are expected to use this functionality to delete the embarrassing messages they left for each other the night before after drinking a wee bit too much.
Call me cynical but I don’t think either of these mobile features will take off on college campuses. First, I don’t really see a need for students to hide their phone numbers because I can’t imagine a common situation in which students want strangers to contact them by phone. Perhaps you could give that cute member of the opposite sex your Jangl number at the bar, but if you’re questioning their desirability you might as well give them a fake number and call them yourself if interested later. As for the recalling of voicemails, what drunk person is actually going to think “hmm, maybe I should use Jangl for this call because I might regret it tomorrow?” Intoxicated people, almost by definition, don’t have that sort of foresight.
College Tonight has hinted at some other mobile features in the pipe: a WAP site, mobile photo uploads, mobile status alerts, “Reply-All Texting”, real-time campus updates, and a feature that notifies you when your crush has entered the building (?!). The company has hired a “former FBI profiler” so I assume this means they’ll be serious about safety and security, especially with regard to this last piece of functionality.
When I spoke with CEO Zachary Suchin a little while ago about his intention to attract college students, he suggested that the mobile functionality of College Tonight would play a major role. So far I’m not persuaded that College Tonight can provide a robust enough set of mobile features to drive college students away from Facebook, but I hope to be proven wrong, if only because I’d love to see social networking via mobile really take off.
Update: CTO Jason Schutzbank says that the Crush Calculator – their name for the feature that helps you locate your crush – will initially require users to manually declare where they are located, but by the second quarter of 2008 it will leverage cell phone towers and GPS to automatically locate users. He also says that the messages left through the Drunk Dial/Jangl integration will be accessible via the website using a visual voicemail of sorts.