PMOG, the playful web, and some brilliant stuff that almost changed the world (Virtual Places and Third Voice)

It’s not often I find something online that I find absolutely frackin’ brilliant, but at Foo Camp last year I got a glimpse of PMOG and I new it was important. For the past two weeks or so I’ve been playing with it and I’m blown away.

PMOG stands for “passively multiplayer online game,” an obvious play on the MMOG acronym which stands for “massively multiplayer online game.” World of Warcraft is the best known MMOG with over eight million people paying around $15 a month to level up. It’s online D&D, and it’s crack.

In WOW you get experience points and level up for going on missions to kill dragons, but in PMOG you get points and level up for surfing the web.

How it works is fairly simple after you get past the betaness of the product: you install a tool bar which tracks your activity on the web (see above). As you surf the web you get experience points (see below), and you can get even more experience points for taking or creating “missions.”

A mission is basically list of sites to visit. I create a list of Star Wars fan-created movies (see above). As you travel from video to video you a see a little note (see below) that tells you a little about the film.

This reminds me a lot of Ehud Shapiro’s Virtual Places (Ubique Ltd) which AOL bought back in the day for $14M (if my memory serves me correct). In VP you could command a bus (see below) and take folks on a tour of the web. It was a ton of fun. It’s also similar to Third Voice, a service which allowed users to post a comment on any website, again with a third party piece of software.

Wow, Virtual Places and Third Voice… talk about old school services. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Rose even know what those services are?!? We’re old huh!?

I met Ehud in 1995 and actually built an city called “Restaurant City” with a building called VPTowers for people using Virtual Places as part of GNN and AOL Greenhouse–but that’s a story for another day.

ThirdVoice let you annotate the web. I loved this idea, but it was controversial because people could write on your website. Folks lined up against it and it caused a real bruhaha back in the day, and it of course flamed out. It’s really interesting to think about Virtual Places and Third Voice because at the time those companies were thought to be as important as Netscape, Yahoo, and Pointcast. They wound up being exactly as important as Pointcast in fact.

Anyway, back then this was all new and web browsers crashed every 100 or so pages. Today, the web is very stable and browsers only crash every 200 or pages or so.

Back to PMOG….

Simply surfing around the web is not all PMOG let’s you do. You can also create allies and enemies who you battle with on web pages. You can drop a bomb from the tool on Apple.com for example. If you start dropping bombs, however, people might use a tool to block your ability to drop bombs. You can wear armor so that you don’t get hit by a bomb, or put lightpost on a website to send folks to other places. You can give people things in creates. It’s all very clever.

Essentially it makes surfing the web a multiplayer game. It doesn’t have a killer addictive feature yet that keeps you coming back for more, but I can feel that feature will popup any time. Even if it doesn’t, PMOG is a really fun way to play with your friends.

PMOG was created by one of my oldest friends in the Internet industry, Justin Hall. Justin was the first blogger, before there was a term for journaling. It’s great to see Justin execute on something like this 12-14 years into his web career. He’s got a huge win on his hands I think.

PMOG is just one of those things that just makes your mind spin with possibilities. It reminds you of the creativity that Web 1.0 was all about: art over commerce, cool over cash flow, and clever over commercial. Sometimes I wish the web never made any money and we could have just played with it as a diversion. I guess some folks still do. Rock on Justin.

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