Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

The Children's Crusade Strikes Back at Not-a-Teenager (aka Really Old Lady) BoomTown

The ankle-biters have spoken and it seems that I am completely wrong in my estimation in several recent posts where I wrote that Facebook widgets are–how shall we put it delicately?–exceedingly inane.

Why? Apparently because inane is the goal! Well then, I guess: Mission accomplished!

toybox

At an appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit yesterday, a group on a panel called “Facebook as a Platform,” led by Dave McClure, talked about a lot of stuff.

But it seemed to get lively when the discussion turned to my comparison of the boom in third party apps on Facebook to the arrival in my home of a box of shiny plastic toys from China.

I was at home with my own actual 2-year-old playing a rousing game of hit-mama-with-the-foam-finger- and-crack-up-hysterically, when the group–which included Seth Goldstein of SocialMedia, Ali Partovi of iLike, Keith Rabois of Slide and Lance Tokuda of RockYou–declared me humorless.

All because I did not realize that these apps were meant to be silly and more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Actually, I did know that and, by the way, monkeys are much more fun.

Here was my initial argument:

But, so far, as popular as those apps have become, what [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg and the widget-makers have wrought is mostly silly, useless and time-wasting and the kazillion users of these widgets are pretty much just acting like little children.

“I never thought I would call the often frivolous AOL back in the day–very simply, a Neanderthal version of Facebook–a mature offering in comparison.

“While I will admit when I am not chewing nails that a lot of these apps are somewhat fun, I can’t help but ask myself that lyric from the old Peggy Lee classic: ‘Is that all there is?’

“And if that is all there is, can Facebook really build a viable and long-lasting business on what is essentially a bunch of games that will ultimately become wearying for users? Doesn’t it need more robust apps that actually are useful and relevant and make Facebook the service that Zuckerberg has often told me was a ‘utility’?

“While Facebook–with a cleaner and more strict look and a better navigation–is surely less goofy than rival MySpace for anyone over 12 years old, and its video, photo and email features are nice, the vast majority of its apps are still mostly as dumb as a box of hammers.”

“Kara’s argument is ridiculous,” said Slide’s Rabois, according to a report on Wired.com.

“Why do people watch movies and TV? Because they’re bored or looking for something to do to relieve stress in their lives. Apps are providing entertainment to users.”

gilligan

Really, Keith? I had no idea, despite the fact that “Gilligan’s Island” was my favorite show for way too many years!

Seriously, I know what he is saying and I agree on the need for some fun on this tragic little spinning globe of ours, except:

1. I would be fine with silly widgets, if there were more serious ones too, well beyond Vampires and SuperPokes and even an app called Pop Ur Zit. All of these have the longevity of a gnat, designed to be faddish and quickly forgotten. And, if you are going to be fun, one might try a little harder to come up with some offerings that are a little less disposable.

In fact, on a recent visit I made to RockYou HQ (post coming Monday), its savvy tech lead noted that there was surely a limit to how much crap people wanted to throw at each other.

2. Entertainment, especially the idiotic kind, will not get you to massive sustained usage that characterizes a true paradigm shift that McClure claimed was happening.

For example, was it all the games that made the personal computer become a ubiquitous device? No, it was serious programs like VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3.

So where are those kind of apps for systems like Facebook, I wonder, as I noted in another post about what to do with a group of 2,500 techies I have gathered on the social-networking site. So far, we have a whole lot of nothing to offer them.

3. Another argument made on the panel was that the blogosphere used to be disdained as goofy only a few years ago and now it is a true media power.

Well, it was never disdained by me and, actually, there were a lot of substantive and important blogs even back then to balance out the fluffier ones. In fact, there were more.

4. As RockYou’s Tokuda said, referring to me: “I believe for her the apps are useless because she’s not a teenage girl.”

hannah

This is not a news flash, although I probably am one of the older diehard fans of “Hannah Montana.”

But it is not necessarily true that advertisers will flock to these widgets, just because the kids love it.

Because as much as advertisers want to reach a younger demographic, they also do not want to do it in an environment of frivolous engagement and I doubt there is much appeal to them when people are busy slapping each other digitally or cartoonifying their friends. In addition, advertisers want to reach people who will buy things and few are in that mindset when they are anonymously telling someone else the “honest” truth or being a Human Pet.

I could go on, but will stop there, so the Lollipop Guild can respond in crayon.

But here’s one offer I will take RockYou’s Tokuda up on: A promise he made onstage to build something just for me.

Just some guidance, Lance: No poking, slapping, tickling or zit-picking.

Call me old-fashioned, because I know you will anyway.


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When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post