WHO: David Bolliger, CEO
WHERE: Sydney, Australia
WHEN: According to Bolliger, the company has been in stealth mode for the best part of two years. “We’ve done a number of interesting things in Asia leading up to the real deal,” he says.Some early investors, invested in Mixi, the dominant social network in Japan, gave the nascent TileFile a leg up. “We’re focusing on the American and Australian market, just to kick things off,” says Bolliger. “But we have seeds sown in Japan and Korea, which I can’t talk about.” TileFile is funded largely by VC money; Motorola Ventures became an investor in November 15 this year.
WHY: “I’m a filmmaker by training, and I love the new, vibrant Internet with video and photos,” says Bolliger. “But it troubles me that it’s a fractured media experience, with videos on YouTube, photos in Flickr and so on. Yes, you can hyperlink to everything, but hyperlinking isn’t really a great media experience. It’s a primitive media experience compared to what we do offline.”
Bolliger thought it would be great to make video, audio and photos a tile…with a twist. “If the front were the tile and the back were the social network, now you not only have photos or videos but packages, with a media experience in the front and the ability to socialize and make comments with people most closely related to the video.”
TileFile is aimed at the TV, the PC and the mobile phone. Bolliger describes it as “not only content-neutral but location-neutral.” “You don’t need to download any software,” says Bolliger. “The users can organize their own media, the media of their friends, media that lives in the internet, into this paradigm and have a less fractured experience, with maintaining all the social advantages. This is a richer, drag-and-drop way to share content—a next-generation experience.”
If TileFile sounds suspiciously widget-like, Bolliger agrees. “Tile file is a variation on a widget where it’s media-focused. The front is media. Then the back is the people. We’re wrapping the media in the people. You click ‘details’ and it flips over, and you can drill into the various layers depending what was on the front. The problem with widgets is that they exist because people want to make their own combination of different bits of the internet…but widgets are islands. Tile files are more like plates on a sushi train. You can organize them in any sequence, hit play and see all the different media together. When you’re interested in a particular media, you can flip it over and see the social media.”
With regard to TileFile in the mobile environment, Bolliger reports the company already has a “very sophisticated phone application” that hasn’t been released yet.
“The whole vision was that the Tile is good on the small real estate of the phone,” he says. “From the user experience, we’re taking the thumbnail to the next level: social packages. You can use familiar paradigms to greater efeect. When you can look at what you did on your phone on the giant screen, you have nonlinear access. You can drag it to friends on the web as well as the phone.”
The mobile application will be “a high-end experience with a common denominator,” promises Bolliger. “We have the user experience around a TileFile feed, which is a river of TileFiles. If all my friends use TileFile Mobile, I get to see a composite stream of all the new stuff from all my friends. I can comment on the piece of media and forward it. When I find a TileFile I like, if I send it to you, I”m not just sending you the media but the whole social activity around it, and you can get into it. It’s a fully featured TileFile application. Most of what you can do on the internet, you can do on the phone.”
“One of the key things we see happening is that we’re entering an era of web-based messaging for mobile, now that phones are better at dealing with the internet,” adds Bolliger. “Historically phone messages have been dead on arrival. I send an SMS and that’s it. But if I send you a TileFile, then that thing can live on the Web. You can join it later and add layers of description or comment. You can take the code and put it on your blog. The beauty of this approach is the moment it happens on the phone, it also lives on the Internet. So what you did on the phone is immediately available on the web as a TileFile. TileFile is not a destination site like a Facebook or MySpace. It’s an application, so you can combine TileFiles, create files, drag and drop to friends in a media-centric kind of way. Every package has a social layer.”
Bolliger also thinks TileFile has something to offer with regard to the problem of audience fragmentation. “Just as TileFile is looking to deal with the fractured media experience and improve that, we also have the potential to deal with the fracturing of the audience,” he says. “We’re doing a lot of work to make sure we become a sophisticated aggregator of audiences. The Internet, like most societies, becomes either very controlled or very grassroots. The next civilized approach is to say that these things aren’t mutually exclusive.” Bolliger also points out that when the Holy Grail of marketing and advertising is to target consumers with ads for things they want, “the ultimate vision is to bring them the content they care about. “The TileFile feed is media-centric,” he says. “I see what I want to see, I can drill into what I want to drill into. Then I can start to attenuate what reaches me.”
Currently operating as a PC-based experience, TileFile’s mobile application will launch at an unspecified future date.