Here Come The MMO Social Networks

Vint Falken in SL and RLThe number one use of user-created content in virtual spaces, as Metaplace creator Raph Koster once sagely observed, is the screenshot. “That’s actually where the action is,” he said, “things that have a far lower barrier to entry.” Trouble is, it’s difficult for the millions of MMO users out there to share screenshots and other in-game content with one another on a centralized, user-driven web site, especially for the many who participate in more than one world.

Filling this demand is the new social network Koinup, recently launched by an Italian startup of the same name. It aims to bring together players from World of Warcraft, IMVU, Second Life, and other online worlds. Om passed me the link a few days ago, and since then I’ve been noodling with the cool if still somewhat clunky system.


torrid.jpg

On the plus side, uploading images is intuitive and speedy, and user content (both screenshots and machinima videos) are nicely displayed with user ratings. Key features will presumably be improved over time, but right now, uploading videos is frustrating (I couldn’t figure out how to quickly plug YouTube videos into my account) and searching for contacts is difficult. I finally managed to find a couple of Koinup users I know from Second Life, and though communicating with them through the network’s internal messaging system demonstrated how cumbersome it is, their takeaways were insightful and — overall — positive.

“I enjoy Koinup; it’s like Flickr for virtual worlds,” famed Second Life fashion designer Torrid Midnight told me. Midnight also participates in a Flickr-based SL community, she added, but “it can sometimes feel a little out of place because I don’t post real-life works or photos.” Vint Falken, another renowned SL Resident, also made the Flickr-for-MMOs analogy, “…which we were begging for a few months ago when Flickr was constantly NIPSA’ing avatar accounts,” she told me via the messaging system. (Flickr had a policy of marking MMO screenshots “Not in Public Site Areas,” effectively removing them from the photo stream, and apparently a recently introduced workaround is not satisfying everyone in the system’s MMO-related communities.)

But are there enough hardcore MMO content creators/users for an entire social network? (Since it’s a free system, it looks like Koinup depends on Adsense and other advertising for revenue.) The fun Myspace-style SL Profiles has been around for over a year, but only has about 10,000 accounts. Positioning Koinup as a universal home for all MMOs is a good idea, but at the same time, online worlds are so different, their most avid users may prefer to stick with social networks targeted solely at them, like Rupture, Shawn Fanning’s new startup aimed at World of Warcraft players. It’s too early to tell if there’s a niche for MMO-branded social networks — or whether they’re better off as, say, Facebook plug-ins.

Image credit: Vint Falken (first pic) and Torrid Midnight (second).

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