I’ve held forth many times on the myriad threats facing MySpace, but the real threat to MySpace dominance is evident in the scores of aspiring MySpace killers that have been filling up my inbox with solicitations (given the publicity I’ve received as a MySpace skeptic). I thought I would take a refreshingly constructive approach to the MySpace conundrum by showcasing some of the companies that are out to eat their lunch. Here is the first in a series.

LostCherry Logo

LostCherry is an aspiring MySpace killer that is taking direct aim at many of MySpace’s most conspicuous vulnerabilities. They even have a top 5 list:

LostCherry MySpace Sucks

What’s really interesting about LostCherry is not that they’re taking potshots at MySpace but that they have focused on MySpace’s shortcomings as an opportunity to innovate with new features and new platforms for socializing:

Upload 100 PHOTOS into your own albums – even directly from your cell phone!

Instantly preview any member by hovering over their photo.

Instant alerts on your homepage when a friend uploads a photo or leaves you a comment.

Use the Shoutboxâ„¢ on your homepage and instantly private message anyone on LostCherry.

Trust System…No Big Brother here to delete profiles or photos. The community regulates what it sees.

LostCherry Screenshot

LostCherry has a point system that encourages usage and also provides the basis for some ecommerce revenue opportunities in the works:

What are Cherry Points?
You earn points while you surf and use LostCherry. When you reach a certain level, you will unlock features and benefits such as increased photo storage, highlighted nickname, etc. You can see your point total on your home page or profile page. Cherry Points also help your Cherry Ranking.

Points are awarded when you:

  • Rate a photo
  • Leave a photo comment
  • Upload a photo
  • Leave a comment
  • Change your trackz
  • Rate a member’s profile
  • Upload a mobile photo
  • Someone becomes your fan
  • Someone adds you as a friend
  • Take someone’s cherry comment
  • Configure your mobile phone
  • Configure your trackz
  • Successfully invite someone to join LostCherry (500 points each!!!)

What are Cherry Bucks?
As you earn Cherry Points, you will also earn Cherry Bucks. You can use these Cherry Bucks to buy virtual gifts for anyone on LostCherry! Use them to either flirt, cheer someone up, or just for fun! You will find the LostCherry Gift Shop link on a member’s profile page in the top left section.

LostCherry members can earn their way up through a hierarchy of Account/Member levels that range from “Freshmeat” to “Cherry Idol,” which drives utilization through ego stroking.

Based on what I heard from Dave Yoo of Lost Cherry, they are focused on non-advertising revenue models, a refreshing change from the pedestrian focus on advertising that has emanated from the MySpace camp (and most of Web 2.0 for that matter):

The conventional “get more page views for ad revenue” model is not something we are relying on. Our main focus is to follow the eBay model and be the best at facilitating user-to-user & user-to-community interactions. We believe that we accomplish this, and the revenue streams will present themselves naturally. As one example, we currently have a “Cherry Blast” feature that members can use to reach the entire user base for $5 to $15 depending on duration that is showing quite a bit of traction. We don’t allow Blasts for commercial purposes, but only for members.

Lost Cherry is also looking to innovate on the content control front by enabling the community to police itself (certainly a more 2.0 approach than MySpace’s 100+ on-staff site police):

  1. Our site makes it very clear when someone is a “veteran” and subsequently a trusted member of LostCherry. We do this by bolding and changing the color of their nickname (you might’ve seen the different colors on our ticking online user bar) as well as calling out their level on their profile page…again not unlike the seller/buyer rating system on eBay. Interestingly enough, these members have taken upon themselves the role of keeping LostCherry a safe place and almost “bully” out people who harass or act inappropriately. Yes, this may possibly restrict growth, but we feel it’s for the right reason.

  2. Due to the immediate risk of adult content being uploaded, the team has designated 6 members (and more as needed) with whom we have gone to great lengths to develop a strong relationship to help regulate this content. We call them LostCherry “Bouncers” instead of Moderators to keep our edgy motif. We provide some basic guidelines as well as multiple ways to contact us for any gray area issues. All in all, we feel we have a constantly evolving policing methodology in place that has and will scale as we grow.

Given that they are not depending on the good grace of advertisers, they don’t have the same concerns as MySpace does over how content appears to big brands.

It’s notable that LostCherry is also addressing privacy concerns with their approach to online conversation:

What is my Shoutboxâ„¢?
Your Shoutboxâ„¢ is your private chat area — only you can read the messages inside your Shoutboxâ„¢. With this feature you can instantly chat with anyone on LostCherry. You can send someone a shout in three ways:

1) Click on the shoutbox links throughout LostCherry (i.e. on a member profile in the upper left hand side, on a bulletin, etc.) or
2) Click on the users name when it appears in your shoutbox.
3) Use the ‘IM:’ field inside the window that pops up when you preview a profile.

Can anyone read my Shoutboxâ„¢?
No — only you can read the messages inside your Shoutboxâ„¢.

LostCherry only has 49,000 members, just a drop in MySpace’s 80 million user bucket — but then it wasn’t too long ago that MySpace had only 49,000 users. The pace of viral adoption is truly astonishing.

LostCherry vs. MySpace

And with a name like LostCherry, they certainly compete with MySpace on edginess.

It will be interesting to see whether LostCherry can capitalize on the fickle teen’s quest for what’s new and hip.

UPDATE

Based on comments on this post and many more at Digg, LostCherry has some passionate users. There is also evidence in these comments that MySpace is gaining a reputation among (former) users as a place for young teens, pedophiles, and the police.

UPDATE #2

This post was unceremoniously “buried” at Digg — read more about it.