Man, new Facebook wannabe site Zurker must really burn the Diaspora guys. Sorry to rub it in. That Zurker has made any waves whatsoever is a sign that we’re deeply desperate for a replacement for that smug monopoly of a site, Facebook.
Wired recently caught up with Founder Nick Oba and he had this to say about the site’s future:
“Given the support we have, I’d have to intentionally drive this project into a tree for it not to succeed.”
First of all, Zurker is based on the idea of member ownership. That right there could have been a small revolution worthy of attention, except that Founder Nick Oba opted to go with a pyramid scheme, just to make sure that the site wouldn’t miss the tree as it speeds down the mountain. Members get “vShares”, which are supposed to be virtual shares in the site, for recruiting new members. Technically, it’s not quite a pyramid, since you don’t get a share of what your recruits earn, but close enough to produce the same gag reflex. To be fair, social shopping sites have been doing this MLM-like strategy for years now, and it’s totally mainstream these days.
If you go to the Terms of Service on Zurker, here’s what you find (as of 5/21 when I last looked):
vShares are not shares, or stock. vShares are an agreement between the user and the OPERATORS that the user shall qualify for equity. As such, vShares cannot, technically, be “owned,” and the agreement between the user and the OPERATORS may be revoked in case of intolerable abuse by the user; in other words, vShares shall be forfeited in case the user’s account is closed.
vShares records shall be maintained by the OPERATORS until the establishment of an operating entity which apportions equity to all holders of vShares.
TL;DR — vShares are an undefined agreement that Zurker can terminate at will. Some undefined amount of “equity” may be given to vShare holders if we ever establish a company to do that sort of thing.
What do you get for climbing to the top of this pyramid? A whole lot of promises of rainbows and ponies. Wired did some digging on the business history of Founder Nick Oba, and published an article entitled Be wary of cooperative social network Zurker. You must judge for yourself whether there’s reason be wary, once you get an invite. In case the referrals aren’t enough of an opportunity for you to acquire vShares, you can purchase them in bundles, for up to $500 USD a pop.
Based on my short one week experiment, I’ve found the site to be poorly designed, spammy in terms of the number of emails I receive weekly, and full of a whole lot of lurkers. I’ve received several “connects” from people I don’t know, some of whom seem to be sort of evangelists for Zurker. I imagine an army of zealots dead-set on maximizing their vShares. They’re dressed up like Avon salespeople and knocking on my door. No… Noooo! This ironically is exactly the kind of thing Facebook seems to be pretty good at avoiding. Today I went to delete my account. I’m tired of the spam, and fairly confident that this site isn’t worth my time. This could be a case of paranoia, but there doesn’t seem to be a way, or at least, an intuitive way to delete or disable your account. So much for freedom. [EDIT: I found a small type link on the bottom of the settings page, but it took a while.]
On the heels of my last post, How the Cloud Broke Open Source, this post felt relevant. We need real open alternatives to cloud apps like Facebook. I don’t mean hosted open source. I don’t mean a better WordPress. I don’t quite know what I mean, but I know I don’t mean Zurker. I think the future has yet to be invented, but, I’ve got some ideas, and I am sure some of you do, too. Have some opinions? I appreciate comments.