Oh Moli You Heartbreaker, You

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I was greatly cheered today by the news that Dublin based Irish start-up MOLI has received $30M in funding. I was also to no small degree baffled, as neither I nor several other Irelandias on Twitter had ever heard of them when the news came through via Walter.

I hopped over to check it out, and lo my joy was unbridled. Because this – this, my friends – this is the social networking model I have been talking about for months. This is social networking for grownups.

Moli pins its colours to the mast with the post-Facebook slogan “Control your privacy.” As previously mentioned, I’m all for that. But more than that, Moli convincingly delivers what nobody else does: controlled personal networks. Moli lets you build several network channels (for example, work, friends and family) so you can present several faces to the outside world. And then Moli lets you approve new contacts to one or many of your self-defined channels.

This is marvellous. While I may be happy for my friends to see photos of me from my Saturday night at a hen party, I may be less keen for my mum to see them, and I certainly do not want my business partners and clients to see them. Moli lets me push my self-published content – photos, music, audio and blog entries – to whichever channels I select on a per item basis.

As a concept, this is every bit as fantastic as my string of instant fangirl tweets implied. In practice, it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. For a start, I was a little disappointed that Moli couldn’t check my Gmail to tell me who I know that is already a member. Looking around and trying to find anyone I might know, I also realised that there is a heavy emphasis on art, music and creative types ala VIRB. There is an outstanding range of tools for music and visuals for this crowd, but that’s less than useful to me if my business face is not the arts.

Potentially very useful for businesses, however, is the fact that Moli enables online sales and transactions for the low monthly cost of $3.99. For microbusinesses, this could be a fantastic tool ala Etsy, allowing them to get online, setup shop, and conduct sales at a nominal cost in a visually controlled environment with Paypal or Google Checkout.

And then, while I was sitting there trying to decide if sinking time into MOLI was worth it, given that I’m not an artist or a small business crafter and I have no idea how to find the people I know there, MOLI broke my heart.

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For all the positioning and talk of “protecting your privacy” MOLI fails at the most basic hurdle. Because it doesn’t cloak new joins; in fact, it has to be displaying them somewhere, because within 15 minutes of joining, the spam started.

MOLI’s most “active” member, DrTom, would like me to check out his environmental webTV station and products. Lynn would like to hook me into her self-proclained “EZmoney” scheme. (I can only guess how many multitudinous levels it has.) I’m waiting for the bank transfer solicitation from Nigeria, which will surely arrive any moment now.

I am, to put it mildly, devastated. I’m about to set up a channel called Spammers and admit these new “friends” of mine while we await the next flight from the African subcontinent, but really, I’m pissed. This is a great idea, a spanking design, a pretty good UI with a few small issues, and a bastion of everything that is wrong with the internet.

Moli, you wooed me, you hooked me, and then you broke my heart.

By email.

Bitch.

Update 1 | Commenter Hawk5721 comes from a Moli IP
Update 2 | Hawk5721 is Moli.com’s Director of Customer Service