The creator of SimCity, Will Wright, has come out with a new app called THRED — and it isn’t a game.
Instead, Wright describes it as a natively built way to browse “the World Wide Web” in a more pure sense. The THRED app is essentially a collection of pieces of content that range anywhere from games, photos, locations and such strung together in a thread in a cover flow-esque browsing experience.
Each thread — and the locations and photos within it — can be the start of a rabbit hole that link deeper and deeper to other threads. Locations lead to other stories that are based on that location, and users can add links to each piece that lead directly to another story, and so on and so forth.
“Really the idea is, we’re trying to collect all the data from peoples’ individual lives, the stuff that’s potentially accessible by [my phone],” he said. “And we want to turn the data into something you want to share, and link to other peoples’ stuff. It has this structure of the Web, but in a format that i think is far more accessible and createable [sic] on a mobile device.”
Wright, in particular, is famous for his creativity and light-hearted humor that his games were imbued with (for example, his Wi-Fi router is called “FBI Surveillance Van”). In our meeting, he showed several threads that he had created that were essentially comic books based on real-life events. The tools are all there, and Wright said he likens it to a “graphic novel” of your life.
“There’s the external stuff we can measure, pictures you took, locations you visited, and you can use that to create a graphic novel about that,” he said. “That would entice you to determine what’s going on in your head, and explore that and share it — which is usually the best part of the story.”
Community, in particular, is something Wright has a little bit of experience with it. The original Sims was the start of one of the most popular and successful franchises of all time, and Wright said that the majority of players’ time wasn’t actually spent in the game. Instead, for every hour people were playing the sims, they were typically spending three to four hours interacting with the community, which built custom content and shared their creations.
Still, building a community from scratch takes time and is a precarious endeavor. Wright said THRED has about a minute to convince a new user that it’s worth hanging around. So THRED has ways to share its content on the web and through social channels in order to attract new users and try to get them through the app’s first-time user experience. (He referred to that experience as the FTUE — pronounced “fatooey”).
“And that’s just to get them in for five minutes,” he said.
Beyond that, Wright said the THRED team has people creating content internally to explain all the tools that are available to THRED users. Still, he wanted to make sure that the app was lightweight, and that stories were easy to build with just a few taps. One example is the ability to scroll back through photos that you’ve taken, spread across your calendar, and making it easy to quickly create a story with those photos.
“Just browsing the Internet, the web, is a form of entertainment for [people],” he said. “That’s a lot of their entertainment, they’re doing that now instead of watching television. That requires persistent content that can become densely interconnected,”