Social networks have become an imperative part of many peoples day-to-day life over the past few years and the likes of MySpace and Facebook showed that simply putting a unique twist on your service can whisk millions of users from another popular service and try out a new ‘fad’.
Now, that’s where Kulora comes in, a new social network that initially seems a breath of fresh air for the increasingly tiresome online social scene.
So can Kulora offer enough of a refresh to entice people away from the seemingly invincible Facebook? And can they divert enough of the migration away from the path to the rumoured Google Me? Well, let’s find out if it’s worthy first.
Signing Up and Getting Started
The signing up process couldn’t be simpler, as soon as you open up Kulora.com you are faced with a simply form in which you input your name, e-mail address and password before receiving a confirmation e-mail where you will find a code that needs copying into an activation box on the site. After that, you are in and ready to get going, but in case you are stuck as to how exactly to get going, they offer 4 simple tutorials, which will teach you the basics of running applications, stylising your page and such so altogether a very promising start.
Navigating The Site
The Layout of the site is very different to other social networks. For starters, there is a ‘taskbar’ like menu at the bottom, in which you can manage your running applications without having to go through a series of menu’s, but we will delve deeper into applications further on. For Windows users familiar with the ‘start menu’, there is something similar here too in the bottom left, where you can find various sections of the site you will probably find vital before long. The button itself actually reminds me of the KDE Linux desktop environment start button found on distributions such as Kubuntu, for those who are familiar.
In the top left of the page you have your personal photo, which is simple to upload. You can also change your display name, and as there are relatively few users at the moment, you can pretty much choose what you like I guess.
With Kulora, your profile is very much your own to customise, but do not mistake that for the basic backgrounds and themes you could thrown on to your MySpace page back in the day. Instead, as well as choosing a colour scheme you can add backgrounds from your computer or a designated URL as well as a profile picture from your settings menu, accessible via the bottom menu. From the same menu, you can change other details such as opacity of various aspects, font colours, your password and your ‘About Me’ section.
User’s security has been at the forefront of many debates in the Facebook camp of late and ultimately it led to a full re-hash of the entire security settings system on the site, so it is crucial that Kulora gets the whole thing right, or it may find itself out in the cold before long. However, there are several features that do impress initially including the easy access to a ‘panic button’, basically an urgent cry for help, but they do warn that misuse of the button will reap consequences for you and no doubt the existence of your account.
Furthermore, there is a setting that allows you to prohibit your friends from sharing your statuses and other stuff that you decide to share such as photos, which you may want to keep private.
This is the fun stuff, the important stuff and the stuff that really differentiates Kulora from all other social networks. Kulora is extremely app-centric and by app we don’t mean ridiculously addictive games, which eventually irritate you more than give you any enjoyment what so ever.
For starters, the application menu is very clearly laid out and for now there are only a few to choose one, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer great functionality to the site. First off, there is a YouTube application, which like all others on the site, takes up a small portion of the window, which is for the most part dedicated to providing space to layout your apps. The Youtube app simply lets you search a diminutive version of the site and when you attempt to watch a video, another window opens to the right size for the video.
You can change video quality of the video’s change volume just like you can on the real site from within the application, which is handy to say the least. In addition to that there is also YouTube lists, Where you can make a list of all your favourite YouTube video’s to display on your profile.
Next up is the Google app. Very simple, very handy and simply allows you to make a search and view the top 4 results given and no more. So quite limited, but reasonably useful for a quick search if you don’t wish to open a new window in order to share a link in Kulora.
Speaking of blogs, Kulora also provides a space for you to keep a blog on your profile, which is simple and nothing as featured as WordPress, Flatpress or similar, but a small writing space to keep your friends informed. Continuing on the writing theme, there is also a note-taking space, which I imagine is self-explanatory.
Lastly, there is also a number of other applications, such as calendar support, a hotmail importer, a news feed, contact lists, messages and groups. So overall the catalogue of applications so far provide great functionality from the site and offer a completely different service to the likes of MySpace and Facebook and before long you will find yourself with a cluttered profile space full of apps and lists.
Just briefly, let me explain the documents side of the service where perhaps it all becomes a bit more formal or work-centric. Having said that though there is no reason why it shouldn’t be used for personal purposes, but the ability to upload, store and share documents is a great integration to the social network, which again sets it apart from other services.
So, my initial impressions of Kulora having used it for a few days are that it’s actually an improvement in a lot of respects over what the likes of Facebook and MySpace offer. I much prefer the layout and the fact you can manage your day-to-day business in addition to sharing anything with your friends. The ability to stream music and create playlists is incredible, though at the moment the library of tracks is quite limited.
For a new service it is certainly a great offering and I woud urge you to at least sign up and try it out. Perhaps recommend it to your friends, as a social network is nothing without a good base of users.
So whilst they have created a potentially fantastic new social network, it is all important that they market the service correctly and spread the word to disgruntled Facebook users, which are hardly scarce at the moment!