Plazes says goodbye
Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 somebody, probably Ralf, pointed me in the direction of Plazes, a German start-up that was one of the first to expand the idea behind Twitter into location-based socialising.
The idea was very simple but effective (if you like that sort of thing). You went somewhere, sent a text message to Plazes to say you were there, and you were immediately placed there on all your friends maps.
I dutifully joined and tried it out, and abandoned it after a week or so. It was a nice demonstration of what could be done but personally I could live quite happily without everyone I knew following me around Helsinki on a map. It felt as though I was volunteering for the kind of surveillance that I would otherwise be campaigning against.
Not everyone felt like this, and on June 23, 2008, The New York Times reported that
Nokia said Monday that it has inked a deal to buy Plazes, a German social network, as part of the mobile phone giant’s push to transform itself into a next-generation entertainment company.
Nokia is positioning itself as a promoter of social networking, with photo and video sharing and games for users of its cellphones. That is because Nokia predicts that in the next five years, mobile phone users will create 25 percent of the entertainment watched on so-called smartphones, like the iPhone and BlackBerries.
Today, long after I had forgotten all about them, I got an email that said
Thanks for being part of Plazes. We hope you enjoyed the journey, past or present.
The time has come to say farewell, and next week, Plazes will go out of service.
From next week, you can go to Plazes.com and move your history to Nokia Maps. Your plazes will become favourites on Nokia Maps for your PC or Mac. Shortly after next week, you’ll also be able to sync your favourites with Nokia Maps on your phone.
I have no idea whether Nokia, or indeed the people who set up Plazes, feel that they benefited from the acquisition, nor do I have any idea how many users they gathered. Well I do, but I am not sure how accurate the information is.
According to Web Traffic Estimator plazes.com has 1,200 unique visitors every day and 2,760 daily page views. This is in stark contrast to the [warning: random comparison approaching] 162,000 unique daily visitors to Comic Book Resources, a comic-related news site, and scarcely more than the 861 unique daily visitors to SpeedForce.org, an excellent one-man amateur site for fans of the DC Comics character The Flash.
We may possibly conclude that this was one social network that did not go viral.
Interestingly, the social features that were the foundation of the original vision seem to have disappeared in the switch to Nokia Maps, because the email finishes
With Nokia Maps, you can search for interesting places and find your way there with walking, driving and public transport directions. And if you find somewhere new on your travels, you can add it to the map, write reviews, post a rating and add photos.
There is no mention here of using the new service to connect directly to friends and colleagues: no mention of the previous ability to “see who’s crossing your path and what’s happening nearby”. Perhaps that is now so mainstream that we should just assume it will be bundled in. I wait with (a vague sense of mild) interest to find out.
Bye, bye Plazes.