Wallop is a new social networking site that completely turns the typical MySpace business model upside down. Wallop began as a project at Microsoft Research, and was spun off as an independent venture by Kark Jacob and Sean Uberoi Kelly, with VC backing and an equity stake from Microsoft.
I had the opportunity to test a very early version of Wallop over a year ago, and more recently got a walkthrough of the current incarnation from Kelly.
How is Wallop unique?
In a number of ways. First of all, there are no advertisements. Wallop’s business model isn’t build on advertising, but on taking an eBay-style transaction fee on ‘mods’ purchased by members. It’s a crafty blend of Flash, MySpace and Second Life.
Second, Wallop’s interface is built entirely in Flash. Because their business model doesn’t depend on ad views, there is no need to drive up a page-view rate. This leads to some really interesting and innovative interface options that make Wallop feel more like an application than a website.
Wallop provides all of the typical social networking features — journal entries, comments, friends, photo sharing and so on. But it’s entirely extensible by a community of developers or “modders.”
Flash developers can create their own mods for Wallop, and offer them for free or for sale in a marketplace. In addition, if you see a mod that you like on someone’s Wallop “page”, you can click to purchase it for your own page. The modders name their price.
Mods can include anything from games to ecard-generators to auto-updating photo montages of your friends. If you can program it with Flash, you can create a mod for Wallop.
Control Over Who Sees What
One key feature that I really liked was the ability to create ad-hoc groups of friends, and assign view or comment permission to those groups on an object-by-object basis. For example, Steve might be in my network of friends, but I also include him in a subgroup of friends who like Mott the Hoople. I could also include him in any number of other subgroups that I define (or redefine at will). Then I can post my own Mott-commentary (or photos, music, whatever) exclusively for those friends in that group. A really smart idea that I’m surprised hasn’t taken hold sooner.