Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Shaker, Valley-Hyped Startup, Aims to be "Second Life, Except You’re Yourself"; I'm Not Convinced It'll Succeed

Shaker Facebook Second Life

Shaker, a new start-up backed by TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, is a Facebook-powered virtual chatroom environment that is, in the words of its founder, "like a Second Life, except you’re yourself.” It's a 2.5D simulated space where your Facebook profile literally floats above your avatar's head, and where you're able to chat and interact (dance, buy drinks) with other Facebook users, with your Facebook-defined common interests acting as an icebreaker. (As pictured here: Maria, Maria, I just met an avatar girl named Maria... and we both like Obama.) Unsurprisingly, given Arrington's backing, it's getting a lot of buzz in the Silicon Valley tech community. (My friend Liz Gannes has a really good write-up on All Things D.)

My own initial take? There's a lot of potential in linking avatar-based chat to Facebook profiles. City of Eternals, the Facebook-based MMO I helped develop a couple years ago, also had that feature, and even in its early Beta stages, generated some really interesting social interactions. And while it's also early days for Shaker, I think it has a steep road to succeed -- here's why:

There's no room-based chat in Shaker, as far as I can see (it's all player-to-player interaction), no user-generated content, no gaming systems or game objectives. The avatars themselves are totally generic, unappealing, and undifferentiated. Zynga's YoVille linked Facebook profiles to avatars and chat two years ago, and was pretty successful for awhile, but has been dwindling since. (Not a good sign.)

What's more, I don't think Shaker's developers understand why Second Life has succeeded (at least on a profitable niche level): A big appeal of SL is not having to link your real identity to your avatar, freeing you up to be more creative, take more chances, publicly express parts of yourself that are important but that you generally keep to yourself. (Also a big reason why pseudonymous user-generated sites like DeviantArt and Reddit do so well.)

A more relevant comparison to Shaker is Habbo Hotel, since they're both web-based, and not full 3D like SL. Habbo's doing pretty well (now with about 15 million monthly uniques I believe), but again, Habbo has succeeded with features that Shaker doesn't have: User-generated content, pseudonymous identities, gaming systems. (All of which Turntable.FM, another new virtual social chat startup, does have, which is probably why it's getting good traction.)

Again, this is just my initial take of an early Beta product, so it's not fair to write it off just yet; I'm very curious to see how Shaker develops. But for now, I'd say this: Shaker probably needs to shake out some of its underlying assumptions, to really succeed.

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Alazarin

Ugh..... the avatars are cardboard cutouts . From the screenshot it looks like a jazzed up isometric projection. Whoever thought this one up completely missed the point of SL. No thanks.

On the positive side they might provide an ideal home for all the SL 'realos' who can't accept the concept that some people might actually prefer an avatar that isn't a mini-me of their RL selves. Personal expression, role-play, identity exploration...

Metacam Oh

Looks like dog poop. Back to the drawing board Shaker.

Doreen Garrigus

This is a no.

Nexii Malthus

Cool, "like a Second Life", eh?

... Wait a sec.
hmm.. doesn't have that..
...not that...
consumers instead of prosumers..
...hmm...
boring faceless avatars..

I see.

So, is this like, meant to be a parody?

Arcadia Codesmith

YoVille committed the cardinal sin of being very boring when none of your friends were around.

It looks like Shaker is on the same path, plus I don't see a revenue stream here.

I value pseudonymity, but obviously you could have a viable social VW without it. But it's got to be a strong VW first, or all you've got is a gimmick.

Toxic Menges

Habbo for adults. Statements about it being like Second Life show the length that Linden Lab need to go to in order to get the message out about the real possibilities within Second Life. Time for PR and marketing to step up I think!

Wizard Gynoid

Would it be a Reductio Ad Absurdum for a Secondlife avatar using their Facebook account to interact with other Secondlife Facebook users using this Shaker thing? Who else is up for that?

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Yucky-poo. What person put up VC for this virtual trainwreck?

No UGC? Picto-person avis?

Might as well use Skype or Elluminate. Whatever the merits or demerits of the FB connection, Shaker is about as "immersive" as a pee-warmed kid's wading pool.

I need a cocktail shaker now, if this is the future.

Wizard Gynoid

When I tried to login to Shaker I got in a redirect loop. This is somehow appropriate because a SL avatar logging in to be a Shaker avatar is somewhat absurd.

jme

Looks to be a fairly small step toward further acceptance of metaverse environments. But the FB association will be a powerful crowd feeder even for a marginal product.

Too bad Metaplace is not around to tackle this niche.

Tateru Nino

It's "like Second Life" if you know nothing about Second Life.

Threnody

"What's more, I don't think Shaker's developers understand why Second Life has succeeded (at least on a profitable niche level): A big appeal of SL is not having to link your real identity to your avatar, freeing you up to be more creative, take more chances, publicly express parts of yourself that are important but that you generally keep to yourself. (Also a big reason why pseudonymous user-generated sites like DeviantArt and Reddit do so well.)"

This is the first time I have ever seen you agree with this as a valid part of SL, Hamlet. A ton of your blogposts argue against this very fact. Have you changed your mind here, or are you just playing Devil's Advocate?

Hamlet Au

"A ton of your blogposts argue against this very fact"

Really, which ton are you referring to? Links, please.

bongo

Another 2d flash ripp off of the palace.circa 95.. and tied to facebook. whoopie. Dozens of these failed just 3 years ago.
same crapp, nothing to see hear, move on, take Arringtons money, buy new computers.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Ack! And I thought Google Lively was horrible!

Shaker beats Lively as the Worst Social MMO Ever Designed.

Expected time of life: 6 months, or all venture capital evaporating in cool gadgets and cars and seaside villas by the clever owners who managed to trick clueless business angels in lending them some money...

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