The mobile Webbys were announced recently and, of course, I’m excited BBC News won the People’s Choice award in the News category, but I thought I’d offer another thought I had after going through the list of nominees and winners: Things are getting fun again.
Games have always dominated in the app stores and as mobile downloads. We know this. But it looks like elements of fun and ‘play’ are edging their way into some of tools and utilities that are emerging and I think this trend is great and important. So many of the sites and apps out there are either ‘functional’ or ‘games’ and very few of them manage to make their functionality fun in a way that isn’t distracting or annoying. I think the apps that do this well will have a serious competitive advantage over apps that make you feel like you’re still working in the office.
I’m no stranger to foursquare – and if we’re friends on it, you’ll already know that. Is it creepy? A little. But you only have to broadcast your location when you want to and to the people you want to know about it – like any other tool, I think we just need to use it wisely. And if you use it, you can’t deny that ‘checking in’ has been made kinda fun.
I think its great that the leaderboard and badges you earn have integrated a level of play and fun into a functional city guide. The way foursquare balances city guide functionality with social connections and fun competition is just great. I’m curious to see what they’re doing with all the attention data and location data they’re collecting. It must be a VERY rich data source about customers and business that’s valuable to many sectors.
And speaking of fun being woven into utility, huddle seems to be trying to leverage a brand name associated with sports and play to sell its project management app (also on the Webby’s list). Wouldn’t you rather be playing (American) football or rugby than doing project management? Conversely, mobile stream sharing service UStream were on the Webbys list – but wouldn’t you rather play with your Kyte (one of their competitors with a more fun name)?
Geocaching is definitely a game but is another example of hardcore technology services and functionality and taking on the face of game play. It’s been around for years (my friends Laura and Dave introduced me to it years ago in San Diego) but the app lowers the barrier to entry so nicely that I think this could make the activity alot more mainstream. Being able to tap into users desires to feel like they’re having fun and play to get them to adopt technologies is one of the things that I think will drive the use of apps and ultimately, drive their value to users and for their creators.