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Old-growth social network Tagged has raised $15 million. As the other top social networks struggled in a Facebook-dominated world, Tagged was busy acquiring its competitors and complimentary services to firmly position itself as a competitor to MeetMe and Badoo.

It used to be Facebook is for keeping in touch with people you know. Myspace is for meeting new people. Now its Facebook is for keeping in touch with people you know and Badoo, MeetMe and Tagged are for meeting new people.

I revisited the site and took some screenshots.

I would love to see a fun and engaging social app, the problem is the ones that are popular and make a lot of money are absolutely nothing like the kind of app I would use. MySpace-ugly pages, Sorority Life game, offer-based coins, ads with young women showing their breasts and now the ever-present top of the page Badoo thumbnail display of people. Whatev.

These apps are clearly a reflection of our society. Tagged has a deal with Zoosk to power their dating feature, which is probably explains the type and quality of people on Zoosk and Tagged are so similar. People want mindless distraction and to look at some young hotties. Then after a few months they bail because they get tired of the incessant upgrade pitches, the large number of fake/stale profiles and the general low-quality interactions.

TheComplete.me is on a direct course for Tagged. Either they compete directly if TCM can come up with enough investor cash, say $25 million for marketing to get it to 5 million monthly users, or Tagged grows to a $100 million run rate and TCM becomes an acquisition target depending on how it fares in the now officially saturated “We not only expose you to people on Facebook that you don’t know, we also introduce you to the friends of your friends” game.

How come Badoo isn’t acquiring more sites?

From a business standpoint, Tagged’s $50 million a year is a smashing success. Who wouldn’t want to be in on that, but what happens when we keep dumbing down these experiences? We’re close to digital grunting at this point.

Where does that lead us? A small amount of serious daters on subscription sites like Match and eHarmony and the rest (majority) of the dating pool on free social sites focused on making new friends? Is that the end result?

This might sound odd to some of you, but I think that the Internet is an evolutionary step towards mental telepathy and ESP. In the future we’ll all be networked together without any wires. Popular esoteric knowledge is that we’re all connected already, we’ve just lost sight of that. So we have the interwebs, and the FB and the Twitter, and now everyone wants to get in on the social discovery trend. Either you are doing it for money or you are doing it to improve humanity and move us closer to feeling connected again. But you have to pick a side, the two are mutually exclusive. Which is hard because you need money to succeed in the connecting-people business.

As usual, the first few companies achieving success are stumbling along and every once in a while making big evolutionary leaps. But as a whole, we’re on step 1 of making a dent in the whole reconnecting-everyone model. Facebook, Tagged and Badoo, etc? The engine just started. We can’t even get a decent psychological profile from a Facebook wall yet. Its crazy that nobody is (publicly) going near this, the most basic of efforts to improve introductions and matching.

Finally, its a shame that Facebook is so disappointing and had to go public. Its basically a step up from Tagged in terms of front-end functionality. Its just a little bit better. What is it going to take for FB to make that next evolutionary  step, and can they do that while attempting to nail quarterly financials? Everything from here on out at FB is about personalized advertising. All of that effort focused on selling us more stuff. Perhaps the outcome will be better networking tools, like NASA giving us braces, DirectTV and better car tires. What’s potentially life-change things are going to fall out of the great Facebook race to increase ad revenue?

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