Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Meet Mine — Your Life, in E-Shopping

Part of me would be horrified to let the outside world see my online purchase history. Bad cookware decisions made in the latenight hours instantly come to mind.

But Mine, a new start-up focused on exactly this sort of thing, operates on a different premise: Embarrassing or no, we are what we buy.

In other words, it’s another stab at mapping our online identities. But instead of relying on our ever-expanding web of social connections — such as Facebook — or the myriad topics of interest that catch our fancies on a moment-by-moment basis — like Twitter — Mine goes after our e-paper trail, piecing together a picture of a user from a history of their e-commerce activities.

“Over the next few years, purchase history is going to become perhaps the biggest component of your online identity,” co-founder Pierre Legrain said in an interview. “Right now, it’s spread out all over the place. Mine should be the repository that you control — it’s the master copy of your purchases.”

The idea is fairly simple. Log into Mine with Twitter or Facebook and grant the app access to your Gmail or Yahoo email account. From there, Mine combs through your purchase history of receipts from Amazon, Etsy, iTunes and Zappos, retrieving a master list of your purchases. After that, you’re able to choose which purchases you want showing up in your Mine identity (thank god), and publish them to your account.

From here, it’s much like other social platforms — you’re headed into the stream. Based on a follow/follower model like Twitter (a company Legrain once worked for), you’re able to scroll through the stream to see your friends’ recent purchases, complete with annotated comments sections and the ability to “heart” things. There are links tacked on to each purchase entry, so if you like something one of your friends bought, you can click through and get one yourself.

So, a question: Is this little more than a collection of items you’d otherwise be “liking” on your Facebook page? Or, say, a Pinterest board of items you own or want to own? It seems like the territory is already rife with potential competition.

Legrain refutes this (obviously). He believes the verbs themselves — “like” for Facebook, “pin” or want for Pinterest, and “own” for Mine — are on separate trajectories. “Liking and wanting things creates tons of volume, but in terms of ownership, it is a completely different bucket in people’s minds,” Legrain said.

In other words, there’s room for his start-up not to get big-footed upon by a giant competitor (hopefully).

That may be true, but the more difficult part is making room for another social networking app in consumers’ minds. Keeping people engaged and in the feed is an uphill battle. And with existing competition from players like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (to say little of Path and Pinterest), Mine has its work cut out for it, no matter how active our spending habits.

Mine is available in the App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as on the Web.

Good taste not included.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald