Wallop Shows Up to Party

At this point, social networks that don’t offer something dramatically new are having trouble. Remember TagWorld? It’s a MySpace clone but way better designed. It came late to the game, but was rallied on by people like me who were sick of MySpace hurting their eyes. Well, the site has stalled out at 2 million users, while MySpace has sped on past 100 million registrations.
Last night Wallop beta-launched. I want to root for this one too, but it’s hard to say whether the company’s tweaks are enough to drive mass migration. After all, MySpace’s user base is the equivalent of a third of the U.S. population.
Wallop is invite-only, with no friend-of-a-friend, no HTML, and no ads. The site is built in Flash, and the company is actively appealing to the Flash community to build and sell “mods” –backgrounds, animations, widgets, et cetera — for users’ profiles. Its primary business model is to take 30 percent of such transactions. Wallop has ruled out ads, but perhaps not sponsored mods. And no kids allowed; it’s 18-plus for now.

The San Francisco-based company, which Om first covered in April, came out of a 4-year Microsoft research project into social networking. Founder and CTO Sean Uberoi Kelly brags he was user 300 or so on Friendster and user 10,000 or so on MySpace.
CEO Karl Jacob contends “the problem with social networking today is not that you don’t have enough friends, it’s that you have too many friends.” On Wallop, you can precisely group your friends and decide what they see. You can also format a public page for non-members to see.
This attention to privacy and relationships makes Wallop a lot like Facebook. Additionally, Wallop aggregates recent activity on the site into a stream, much like Facebook’s controversial News Feeds.
However, Wallop is not nearly as strict about connecting to real-world identity as Facebook is. (Facebook, incidentally, opened up today to new members whose email addresses do not come from previously approved domains, as it recently announced it would do.)
Wallop is also much more open to modification from outsiders than Facebook. Feeds from sites like Flickr or TypePad are fair game for profiles, users can upload and stream music, and of course pictures. But the company has fallen behind established networks in the mobile space, with no phone version at launch.
Wallop also announced a $10 million series B round last night, and has now raised a total of $13.6 million, from Norwest Venture Partners, Bay Partners, and angels. That money is to be spent on hiring and infrastructure, and also throwing some parties to round up members.
We have no idea why you would want a social networking desktop app, but this is the closest thing we’ve seen to it. I used to feel slightly ill when I happened on a Flash site, but man…we’ve come a long way. Hey Karl and Sean — as a public service, would you consider selling yourself to NewsCorp.?