Imo.im: No, people don’t want to chat with random strangers, Airtime

If the message of the massive Airtime launch yesterday was that meeting new people is the new new thing, Imo.im has a comeback: Chatroulette’s 15 minutes of fame are over for a reason, and it wasn’t just the johnson problem.

“Our goal is not to connect you to random people – I don’t think that has worked in the past.” Instead, CEO Ralph Harik said in an interview with VentureBeat that the problem of social discovery is finding relevant people. “What we really want to do is connect you to people who might have an impact in your life.”

Imo started corporate life in 2008 as the digital one ring of the instant messaging world: a single service that connected many others: AIM, Jabber, MSN, Google Talk and more. From that base the company has iterated and is now releasing features that enable friend discovery as well as friend connection. But not to random people.

Rather, Imo is building a set of algorithms to determine who might be great to connect to. That includes location, interests, friends in common, and previous interactions. In addition, Imo allows you to preview a person that you’re thinking about connecting to, letting you see their interests, employers, contacts, and more. A social service adding human discretion to machine logic seems, well, logical.

One thing I noticed about the interest graph that Imo is using: it’s built within the service itself, rather than taken from a list of Facebook likes.

That’s different than many insta-social services that simply use Facebook as a proxy for profile creation and interest graph generation, and it’s a significant difference. Why? Facebook believes that I’m interested in MendABath BC and Threeboy Design, among other things. In fact, I barely know what they are … I clicked a Like button as a favor to a friend. So the Facebook interest graph is not always the most accurate representation of what we do or don’t like.

Also among the new announcements: Imo is releasing tools that make communication seamless between fixed and mobile devices, including a slick feature that determines if you haven’t seen instant messages sent to your laptop, and then intelligently re-routes them to your phone. And, currently enabled on Android and coming on iPhone, Imo also offers voice calls using data over 3G or Wi-Finetworks.

Imo.im is based in Palo Alto, California, and raised an initial round of capital from Georges Harik, the CEO’s brother and former Google employee. (Full disclosure: Georges Harik was an initial seed investor in VentureBeat.)

Interestingly, Georges Harik was a Distinguished Engineer  at Google, and Director of Googlettes — which is not a lame geek band. They were the team behind Gmail, Google Talk, Picasa, Orkut, and other Google product initiatives.

Photo credit: ShutterStock


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