Meet the Nwaogu twins, Nigeria’s Mark Zuckebergs

Facebook has grown to become the most interesting media on the internet today. When three years ago, President Barack Obama employed it as a forum for his campaigns, analysts projected it was going to become increasingly more popular. Today, President Goodluck Jonathan has proven to be the most available president of Nigeria on Facebook. But what’s more, Facebook has taken a Nigerian dimension literally speaking.

 

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This is because; some young men have decided that, like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, they are going to give Nigerians a good reason they should socialise with ease within the country. The pioneers are twins, Chidi and Chima Nwaogu, who are both studying Physics in the University of Lagos (UNILAG). Sometime in early 2010, after opting out of another group developing a social network site, Chidi had asked Chima whether it won’t be a good idea to give UNILAG students a forum to socialize similar to Facebook. This got both of them busy working on it. On April 17th 2010, LAGbook was born. LAGbook went live on April 25th 2010, when they purchased the domain name.

 

The social network quickly grew to fame on campus of the University of Lagos, Akoka in June 2010 after appearing on a campus magazine and littering about 1,000 wall stickers around the campus’ walls, tables, chairs and notice boards. The twins were just 20 years old. Like Facebook, LAGbook is a social networking service in which its users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Additionally, users may join common interest user groups, organised by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics.

LAGbook also allows anyone who declares that they are 13 years old to become a registered user of the website. Aside these social networking facilities, LAGbook also a number of other attractive facilities that places it ahead of Facebook, despite its age. For instance, a user can chat with other users that are not their friends on LAGbook. This creates fun for the first time users as they do not have to start adding friends before getting the best of LAGbook. It also makes it possible for more than two users to discuss or debate a topic or issue.

Apart from that, there is no upper limit to the number of friends a user can add a day. One can search for other users using their sex and location, and can upload their photo gallery from Flickr by simply connecting their LAGbook account with the Flickr account. Unlike Facebook, one can upload videos from other websites, like Youtube to LAGbook. One can also share files of any kind on LAGbook with other users such as Corel-draw files, PDF, PSD, DOC, RTF and music files. But above all, one can earn money by socializing.

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According to Chidi Nwaogu, co-founder and co-president of LAGbook Inc. “We try to make LAGbook as innovative as possible. We even have headline news from different media on the social network, so one does not need to leave the site in order to know what is going on around the world. We also have value for users, so on every page is a feedback tab.” When it was earlier founded, the focus was on students of University of Lagos. However, Chidi says they have always been aware that they are bound to expand, and had prepared for them . His words: “LAGbook is an acronym for ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’s book’. We didn’t intend to make a copy-cat of Facebook. We choose the name LAGbook instead of AkokitesMeet because we thought the name will tell what it is all about even to dummies. LAGbook first adopted red colour for about 4 hours before we decided to give it a faint blue colour.”

“We adopted the default group logo as logo of LAGbook after enhancing it by adding LAGbook to it as that looked more like Facebook after LAGbook had grown to fame in the University. But we no longer use the Facebook blue colour anymore. The Nigerian green colour and present logo was adopted on 6th October 2010 as part of the many steps to reinventing LAGbook”. Apart from LAGbook, the developers have also invented other projects like OyaFollow.me, their own version of Twitter for Nigerians.

On the name of the website that seems to make it look like it was meant for Lagosians only, Chika says that the name is coincident. “It was meant for all Nigerians. Our focal point is Nigerians all over the world, not Lagos. It is for all Naija people, not only Lagosians and so it will be wrong for people outside Lagos to mistake it for a social network meant for Lagos alone. The polname is ladies and gentlemen’s book, not Lagos book”. With over 25 thousand subscribers, LAGbook is quickly gaining prominence. However, some users and Facebook subscribers who have come across LAGbook have complained that it shares a lot of resemblance with Facebook.

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Chidi however told Young & Next Generation that although the initial idea was from Facebook, they have not been copying Facebook in any way whatsoever, and that they have been working hard to ensure that the resemblance is reduced to the barest minimum, while retaining the original format: “We write all our codes ourselves, although our codes look and function like Facebook. But we are not in any way infringing Facebook’s rights because we do not share the same source code with them. We want to make it as Nigerian as possible, as different from Facebook as possible”.

But what about financing? Nwaogu Twins told Young & Next Generation that, had it not been for the money their father has been giving them each time they ran into hitches, LAGbook would have been an aborted dream “our dad never failed us, he was always providing for us the initial pressures of money, but we also raised money through adverts on the website”.

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