Newsweek and CNet are buzzing about an upcoming app from Microsoft named “threedegrees” that is targeted at what MS biz dev manager Tammy Savage calls “the Net generation” — 13-to-24-year-olds who “are on instant messenger before their morning coffee”. (Note to Tammy: I’m 27 and I’m on AIM before my morning coffee…)
threedegrees lets users create little virtual peer groups of up to ten people, and then share conversations, features, and applications across the group. These shared features can be as simple as “winks”, little emoticon-like animations, or as complex as applications like “musicmix”, which lets members of the group pool their digital music collections into a kind of collaboratively driven jukebox.
What’s the revenue model for threedegrees? The service will be free, at least at the beginning, so there’s no cash for Redmond up front. However, a look at the system requirements for the service provides some insight: threedegrees users will need Windows XP (with Service Pack 1) and Windows Messenger to be able to play.
This is a particularly cunning move, in that both of those products have been suffering from lower-than-expected consumer uptake; almost nobody has upgraded to XP except those who buy new computers with it pre-installed, and MSN Messenger has long been blocked in the marketplace by the more widespread use of the incompatible AOL Instant Messenger. threedegrees could drive adoption of both those products by using a novel, social approach; if you’re fifteen years old, and you keep getting messages from all your friends that they would love for you to join their threedegrees space but you can’t because you’re using boring old Windows 2000 and AIM (or — heaven forfend! — a Mac), it’s not hard to imagine you nagging the living daylights out of Dad to upgrade so that you can be one of the cool kids. (“Dad, Windows 2000 is soooo three years ago!”)
It’s the first time (as far as I know) that a software vendor has formally harnessed the power of peer pressure to keep users on the bleeding edge. Good news for Microsoft; bad news for Dad. [Seen on Slashdot]
UPDATE: A poster on Ars Technica’s message boards points out that the product as described has a very strong resemblance to a product from another company, HelloWorld from Cooperating Systems, Inc. Having never used either product, I’m in no position to say — but, while they are obviously pitched at different audiences (HelloWorld seems more grown-up than threedegrees by a long shot), their feature sets do sound a lot alike…Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at February 18, 2003
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