About a year ago, or so, I had the pleasure of being invited to a luncheon here in Davao. The luncheon was being put on by an Internet company called Multiply.com.
I had met the Country Manager for the Philippines of Multiply.com, Jack Madrid, a couple of years ago when we both spoke at the Blog Fest event in General Santos. Jack was a nice guy, and I hoped to get to know him better. Later, we connected on Twitter, and exchanged messages from time to time. I am not sure if Jack had anything to do with it when I was invited to the luncheon, but however that happened, it was fun, and I also learned a lot there.
In the past, Multiply had been a site where people could blog, sort of like a Blogger service from a different company. As time went on, people started using Multiply as a place to store their photos and display them, sort of a photo sharing service. Multiply also became a pioneer in social networking, sort of an early Facebook type site, although it never garnered nearly the popularity that Facebook has gained. Then, a few years back, something new started happening at Multiply – people started using it as a way to set up an online store. It sort of became an eBay type of site, unintentionally.
When I went to the luncheon last year, company officials who were there to speak with those of us who were invited started telling us that basically we could take everything we knew about Multiply and throw it out with the bathwater, because Multiply was about to completely re-invent itself. It seems that this using of Multiply to make online stores was something that the company had never considered until it started seeing it’s customers doing it. Funny thing was, although Multiply was a US company, they saw this e-commerce use of their site happening primarily in Indonesia and the Philippines! This type of site use was growing so rapidly that Multiply decided to throw out everything else it was doing, move the company headquarters to Indonesia, and relaunch the site exclusively as an E-Commerce service.
The people who were using the site for blogging, photo storage and other social use were basically to be kicked out and told to go elsewhere. I found this a bit strange, but I figured that the people heading up the company must know what they were doing. They certainly had much more information than I did.
Almost a year ago, I started checkout out how Multiply was doing with their e-Commerce offerings. I liked what I saw, and I even decided that I wanted to set up some kind of e-Commerce business using Multiply, just to be part of the growth. Although I wanted and planned to do that, it never happened. I just got too busy with other things, and also never really figured out the right mix of items that I may do well with on Multiply. I did, however, make a purchase on the site, mostly to try it out and see how it worked. I bought a pair of shoes through a merchant in Manila. Frankly, it was a great online shopping experience and convinced me that Multiply was on the right path.
Last week, I was kind of surprised when I found out the news that Multiply had announced that they were going out of business. Very quick announcement, and very little time for merchants to figure out what they would do about moving their business to another provider. It was announced that Multiply would close down on May 6. Roughly 1 week worth of notice to vendors and customers.
I know plenty of people who have online businesses on Multiply. Some people I know have been operating their business on Multiply for many years now. Imagine that, take years to build up a loyal clientele, and you don’t even own your own site? You are totally at the mercy of a third party company that can just shut down on a moment’s notice, and that is exactly what happened.
I have always been an advocate of having your own website, not relying on others. For example, whether it be an e-commerce business, a blog or any other kind of online presence, I think you should purchase your own domain and build your own website. Yes, you can have other pages that you don’t really own, like Facebook, Google+ or others that are part of your business. I believe, however, that you should keep the core of your business on a site that you own, and a site that cannot just “go out of business” in an instant and leave you high and dry.
Sorry to see what happened to Multiply. I hope all of my friends who use Multiply for their business presence will come out of this OK, and move on to something even bigger and better.