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VelvetPuffin Builds Carrier-Independent Social Networking For Phones On IM Platform

VelvetPuffin isn't just for text messaging; it delivers videos, photos, blogs, and other content associated with social networking.

VelvetPuffin, a startup based in Singapore, today launched a free social networking service in the United States and Asia that spans desktop PCs and mobile phones.

The service is carrier-independent, in contrast to the exclusive partnerships U.S.-based social networking services have struck, such as the deals between Cingular (AT&T) and MySpace or Verizon and YouTube. As such, it significantly expands the pool of people one can socialize and network with, not to mention the breadth of content one can view.

The carriers "like us if they strike deals with us," said CEO and co-founder R. Chandrasekar. "But, yes, they're going to hate us."

Not that mobile carriers should hate the company -- any use of the service sends data over a network and that means revenue. And VelvetPuffin is open to revenue sharing arrangements. Still, carriers may resent their lack of control over the service.

VelvetPuffin functions on PCs and phones with equal facility because it relies on its own instant messaging application, rather than a Web browser, as the foundation of its Mobile eXperience Interface, or MXI, operating system. But VelvetPuffin isn't just for text messaging; it delivers videos, photos, blogs, and other content associated with social networking

VelvetPuffin has its own IM community. It also connects to the IM networks run by AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. The IM client has built-in polling capability. While voting on VelvetPuffin may not be sufficiently secure or scalable for, say, presidential elections, it should be fine for a dispersed group of friends trying to settle on what movie to see.

The service also lets users blog, and share photos and videos from Google Video, Metacafe, and YouTube.

VelvetPuffin works with any Java 2-enabled mobile phone. A Windows PC is required for desktop access, but Mac compatibility is planned, as is European service.

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