Over the past few days I’ve noticed some large companies hopping into the space that was previously the domain of some much smaller startups. To start, Mozilla Labs is working on a social networking add-on to Firefox which may put the kibosh on Flock (more on that later), and then today, Google launched MyMaps which has many similarities to Wayfaring. This reminds me a bit of Kiko’s predicament but will it turn out the same?
Former Flockstar Chris Messina is playing an interesting role in the new Mozilla Coop concept, primarily because he came up with it first back when he was working with Flock (and his mockups are a lot nicer). Mozilla gives him a quick shout-out here saying that “our design was influenced” by his original mockups. Instead of Mozilla flipping the friends bar vertically and calling it original, they should just pay Chris a boatload of money and use the infinitely higher-fidelity mockups he already designed over a year ago. As a designer this is pretty upsetting, so hopefully the folks at Mozilla do the right thing or at least give him better credit than a footnote link.
Will this be the end for Flock? I don’t think so, I think it’s a wake-up call. Flock still has incredible potential but the landscape of “social” has changed dramatically since they first began building the application. Now, MySpace is the social king but the royalty doesn’t like to play nice with outside developers. If Flock could manage a business relationship with MySpace (or another large social network) and become the de facto browser for those looking to maximize their MySpace experience, they’d take off. Of course this is a 180° turn from their current target which seems to be tech-savvy people who have del.icio.us and Flickr accounts, but hey, changing in midstream isn’t such a bad idea sometimes.
Google’s MyMaps just launched (accessible via a tab on the normal Google Maps site) and it has some interesting features. For example, here’s a map for the 2004 Presidential Election with state colors corresponding to vote counts. Wayfaring has been offering something similar for awhile now, the ability to create social maps that you can share and annotate. However Wayfaring is somewhat limited by the Google Maps API, whereas Google can do whatever they want because they own the data. The Wayfaring UI is very, very nice, however they don’t have the map drawing functionality that the new MyMaps has. However just like with Flock’s situation, I think that the quality design and architecture of Wayfaring’s application could easily hold its own if it had some unique features that MyMaps doesn’t have, especially better integration with blogs or perhaps an audio/video component that links to your map.