Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Microsoft Gets a Clue From Its Kiddie Corps

Microsoft Gets a Clue From Its Kiddie Corps "Here’s how the software works. You invite friends to form a posse of up to 10 participants. Representing the group on your desktop will be a colorful image, either one from a set provided by the software or something one of the group has produced. (It could even be a digital photo.) If you’re online—and since threedegrees assumes you have broadband, you’re probably online all the time—you give your friends a holler simply by sending the equivalent of an instant message. Everyone in the group will see it. If you want to send them a digital photo, you simply drag it over the icon and it shows up on everyone’s computer. Then there are “winks”: small animations that you trigger to run on everyone’s screen. Some of the standards include big lips smacking a kiss or a heavyset cartoon character who drops trou and cuts the cheese. (Sending these to oldsters might cause a NetGen gap.)
The most ambitious feature is called musicmix, an online equivalent of a pajama party where people take turns playing deejay. Each group member contributes favorite tunes into a shared playlist, displayed on a dashboard with a customized “skin,” and everyone listens together. A click from any participant can choose a new song. Then everyone chats about the tunes. Interestingly, men and women use this feature differently: guys will see it as a contest—who’s brought the coolest tunes?—and do virtual chest-thumps introducing the hottest bands. Meanwhile, the girls use the music as background for their chats.
Threedegrees is a surprising departure for Microsoft. The company that’s relentlessly focused on productivity has now produced an anti-productivity tool, constantly interrupting you and urging you to waste time with your friends. Who would want something like that? According to Tammy Savage, an entire generation."
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