THE LAST WEBLOG

A few things Mark Wallace

Tag: social media

Facebook vs. the Virtual World, Round 2: Function Over Form

Cloud Party, a virtual world on FacebookIt looks like Facebook is winning this round: I wrote a few weeks ago for Wired about Facebook “killing” the virtual world, and was met by a great deal of skepticism about whether Facebook could become a meaningful platform for 3D social experiences (even though they’re already taking place in the Facebook-based game space). Now comes news from one of the skeptics (my friend James Au) that there’s a very Second Life-Like virtual world available on Facebook! It’s called Cloud Party, and it’s apparently not too shabby, though still early in development.

It will be interesting to see what kind of traction this gets. In large part, it will depend on how well integrated with Facebook it is. One of Second Life’s greatest failings was its complete inability to stay integrated with — or at times even aware of — what was happening on the Web. If Cloud Party can evolve to support people’s lives on the Web and on Facebook, it could be very interesting. If it attempts to create another hermetically sealed experience with no compelling reason to engage, it will languish.

More interesting still is the question of whether a 3D social environment like this can thrive on Facebook at all. Even if Cloud Party doesn’t prove a success, subsequent offerings might well do so. (It’s rarely the first mover who wins the day.) My off-the-cuff opinion is that it won’t work — at least, not until there’s some meaningful and widely appealing affordance offered that Facebook doesn’t include. In other words, I’m arguing for function over form here. Two things need to be in place for a 3D social space like this to flourish:

  • It needs to offer functionality that its platform or channel (be it Facebook or the Internet) doesn’t offer
  • That functionality needs to be something that a very large number of people want but aren’t currently able to obtain

I don’t buy the contention that 3D social interaction around user-generated content is that killer feature. So I’m scoring this round for Facebook once again.

On the State of My Blogosphere

I chose The Last Weblog as the name of this blog because I’d like it to be just that: the last Weblog I set up for the somewhat personal, somewhat professional ruminations that are too long for my Twitter feed but don’t really have another place to go. The question now is whether one last Weblog is enough, or whether I need to supplement things with something like a Tumblr site (which I’ve been doing as well). What exactly is the optimum state of my blogosphere anyway?

I have run a small handful of blogs over the last seven or eight years, including GulfReporter (now extinct, archives lost), which covered my trips to the Arab gulf; BoyReporter, an archive of my magazine and newspaper articles which I’ve torn down and am now slowly rebuilding; Walkerings, my thoughts on gaming and virtual worlds from a certain period (which isn’t live at the moment, but which I’m working to restore); and perhaps most notably 3pointD.com, where I covered developments in virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games, and the rest of the metaverse. 3pointD gained a very healthy readership, brought in some cash, and launched me into two years running a startup (during which I didn’t blog much at all, though I did a lot of Twittering). Now that the startup adventure is changing shape, I’m back to broadcasting my thoughts (on a variety of subjects) a bit more often, and (especially since starting a Tumblr blog as well) find myself faced with the dilemma of what exactly is the right channel (or channels) for all this. Continue reading

Conquer Your Neighborhood in Parallel Kingdom

Parallel Kingdom is a location-based game that lays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game over the top of a Google map of your current surroundings. It’s not the only game of its kind, but it’s a very cool concept, one that points toward the future for much of mobile gaming — and for the mobile incarnation of social media as well. Think of location-based gaming as the teaspoon of sugar that’s going to help people swallow location-based services in general.

PK is fairly straightforward, giving you simple mobs to hunt down and resources to collect, within half a mile of your GPS-determined or tower-triangulated location, whether you’re on an iPhone or an Android handset. One note: I got the game going on my iPhone for about a day, but haven’t been able to get it launched since. According to a recent interview with the developers, however, there are about 70,000 more or less active players, which sounds fairly respectable to me, given the nature of the game. Continue reading

Hark! Comes Calling

The crack team at Hark! launched our browser plugin the other day at TechCrunch50, though to seemingly mixed reviews. This is a project I spent more than two years working on as CEO and co-founder, and one I’m still involved in as a board member, and it’s a service I strongly believe will change how we use the Web. Some of the people who’ve taken a cursory glance at Hark! see only a privacy issue, but to me that’s a straw man: everything from Facebook to iPhone apps like FourSquare and games like Parallel Kingdom are changing how we think about what’s private and what’s not. As my co-co-founder Jerry Paffendorf puts it on his 7 Billion Friends blog, Hark! creates “an entirely new experience of being online live with other people.” As Jerry points out, this will branch out into many powerful and unforeseen places both on the Web and off. Sign up for the service and see for yourself. And add me as a friend when you get there. I look forward to bumping into you on the Web.

Discount Passes to Engage! Expo

You can use code MWVIP to get $200 off an all-access pass to Engage! Expo, which takes place September 23-24 at the San Jose Convention Center. It looks to be an interesting couple of days, featuring panels and talks on social media, virtual goods, 3D environments and more.

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