[UK] A new social network that connects people with real-world places and enables them to have discussions around those places is set to launch in just over a week.
Currently in a closed alpha, UK-based Zubworld mixes elements of Facebook and Twitter (and just about every other social network) but with a central and potentially distinctive theme. Members of Zubworld can purchase their favourite ‘real world’ places – 3.2 million of them – and become a virtual property tycoon. In that sense, it’s a bit like Monopoly, except you play with real money.
Locations typically cost $5 via PayPal, although the more prestigious New York is priced at $50. The more places you buy, and the more followers you amass for each place you own – users follow places not people in Zubworld, although they can still friend each other – the higher your rank. So it has the gaming element of location-based social networks like Foursquare too. Zubworld doesn’t currently offer a mobile version, however, although an iPhone app is planned.
Zubworld also, perhaps mistakenly, borrows and adds to Twitter’s syntax. You can @ reply other users, use hash tags and an explanation mark to mention and link to places e.g. !NewYork. This works great for users already familiar with the idiosyncrasies of Twitter but might alienate a wider audience.
The Zubworld concept also reminds me of virtual worlds, such as Twinity and there lies another potential problem. You log in, visit a place only to discover that there’s not much going on. Zubworld doesn’t even have the richness of 3D to soften the blow. For example, visit Camden Town, which I now own, and you’ll find a ghost town. I haven’t even bothered to upload any photos of the locality or written anything relevant on the page’s wall. But hey, I own the joint.
The incentive to start doing so, however, is two-fold. If I add content and build a community around Camden Town, a place local to me and one that I have a fondness for (presuming I do) then I’m obviously going to get a lot more out of the experience of using Zubworld through interacting with others who share my interest in the area. The same is true for users who don’t actually own the page as I found out when I logged in and visited Camden Town the following day. The other incentive is that I could at a later point, having built up Camden Town’s content and followers, put the page up for sale. The press material for Zubworld alludes to this but doesn’t explain how it will work. Will the sale take place within Zubworld itself or be done privately and does Zubworld take a cut of any profit? The latter, of course, represents another potential revenue stream.
It’s easy to write Zubworld off as a big pile of ‘me too’ and far too reliant on users making a land grab for the best places for fear of missing out, although this could also be the key to giving it an initial push. Not surprising since the site’s founder, Paul Woodman, says that he was in part inspired by Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage concept, along with Dubai’s World Island. He also has a background in sales and marketing and boasts on his profile that he’s “not very impressed or interested” in social networking sites, which he doesn’t normally use. Zubworld is designed to be the exception. And after using the site for a few hours, I think Woodman could be onto something.
If Zubworld can get some early traction – it’s particularly exposed to Metcalfe’s law as the site is completely useless if not enough people join – and gets a move on with that iPhone app, it might just work. I certainly plan to hang on to Camden Town long enough to find out.
On that note, Zubworld is currently privately funded and says that they are looking at funding options for the future.