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For people who have never heard of spymac, let me give you some background to it. It was founded in 2001 as a Macintosh enthusiast website, by Kevin April and Holger Ehlis. The main reason this community became so big was the fact that the spymac team came up with the idea of iWalk, apparently a supposed Apple PDA.
In the end the photographs and descriptions were shown to be a hoax. However Spymac had still benefited from this and now has over a million member (half of those are inactive though).
To bolster spymac's member count they launched the internet's (yes the internet's!) first 1 GB email service, this was another reason why spymac became so popular with internet users, now though everyone offers and Spymac has ever since been trying to gain more members.
The reason Spymac became so unpopular with members was due to the fact that they released half-baked services which just wouldn't work.
They then tried to pacify members by introducing 'Club' which had good potential, but just didn't work. The club package included 'easy' to use blogs, a homepage service with large amounts of storage and much more. It also included a suite of internet-aware applications which allowed users control of the features from their desktop, sadly this was only released for mac's.
With the new version of spymac (named Leapfrog) they hoped to gain users trust, this was done first through fixing all the bugs in the old system, however many members would have liked them to spend more time on getting Leapfrog right.
Leapfrog also tries to jump on the web 2.0 bandwagon, however it could be said that this version of spymac is neither innovative or pretty to look at (which most web 2.0 sites are). Looking through the website I noticed that most of the ideas are copied from other websites, including myspace, flickr and many more web 2.0 sites.
The site also relies on other websites to provide services and this website could be classed in technical terms as a 'mashup' of different web services.
It seems that with this release of Spymac the community has lost it's identity.
Before it was noticeable that the site was based around Apple and mac operating system, now it looks any other myspace or bebo. With no visual identity could this be the end of once a thriving mac community? If you go to the about section of the website itself, it in fact does not mention it is a apple mac community, strengthening my argument.
Several sources inside the web 2.0 industry have said that the only reason site's like Spymac incorporate generic features is so that they can be bought bigger and better companies, such as the recent purchase of youtube, however with youtube they did something new and innovative.
So lets look at the new Spymac Leapfrog features.
The video section of Spymac is nothing special, on the front page is shows a random selection of videos as well as videos posted in different time categories, today, this week, this month, all time. The visual layout of the site gives the appearance that the boxes which contain the video are movable however this is not the case. The interface (once you click to view a video) is similar to that of youtube's and other web 2.0 video sites, again striving on the argument that sypmac has not put any thought behind the design and development of the website. Another disturbing feature of video's sections is the ability and condoned allowance of users upload adult content, later in this review i'll talk about their 'family filter'.
The pictures page has exactly the same interface design of the videos page, I question spymac's enthusiasm when coming to designing this website. When you click on the title of an image an box pops up with the image and users details in-front of the website, this method is widely used on a variety of websites and is a common plugin which can be download for free.
Spymac's webcam is a odd feature to add, from what I can gather I displays a static image, in a similar way to that of the deviant art feature. This feature could come into problems if people under a certain age use it could bring up legal problems for Spymac. Again the interface is the same as all the other sections which does not make for interesting viewing.
The audio section is again similar to video, pictures and webcams. When you click through to listen to the audio you arrive at the same interface as that of the video section, with the same options, a strange feature that spymac has added is a random picture added to the audio which seems to come a selection of possibly royalty free images.
When I first arrived at people section of the spymac website I hit by the similarity of that with the interface of youtube, when you click on the users image you are sent to a default profile page which shows vital stats, friends and comments. Even the colour scheme resembles that of youtube.com.
I can not comment on both the forums and blogs sections of the website this is due to the fact that they are still running the 'classic' version of both features, however in typical spymac fashion the links back to both the blogs and forums sections are broken.
The collections part of Spymac is a feature found in many web 2.0 communities, the basic idea is collect videos, audio and pictures which are based around one subject. Again this section has been copied from other well established web 2.0 sites.
It has to be said that the one thing that got me upset was the easy availability of adult content which could easily fall into the wrong hands. For example it doesn't take a genius to switch off the 'family filter' infact Spymac has put this feature in a prominent position on the page meaning that anyone could spot it. It also begs to ask why does spymac need to include adult content on it's site? Is this just another way to get members signing up when they hear that the site includes adult content? Spymac openly accepts membership from minors aged thirteen or over with 'adult consent' however I wonder how parent/guardians would feel if they new an online community that their child engages with includes adult content? Spymac may have back itself up in legal regards, but what about moral regards?
Time will tell members take to this re-design/developement of a community based around Apple Mac's?
If you are a member of Spymac please register opinion
iVirtua has just learnt from sources that major boycott of the community will be put in place when Leapfrog is released publicly. One member (who shall remain anonymous said " I don't really like it, I liked the old gallery better.
EDIT: Note the dating ads on Spymac, and also some of the revenue sharing methods copied from flixya.com
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Last edited by Editorial Team on Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:42 pm; edited 3 times in total
From the pictures I've seen, I'm underwhelmed. Spymac offers a lot. Email services that are decent, forums like others, only worse. Galleries like others, only worse. Chat like others, only worse. And a few other things... only worse. It's a mish-mash, a concoction of things half-done. Some stuff has potential. There are some good ideas. But instead of working towards excellence, they start working on a new house when the other's still without roof. That's when ppl start to complain about getting rained on - if you'll allow the metaphor. Sure, on a construction site, you can build a number of buildings simultaneously. When, however, you want ppl to move in... you'd better put a roof on top of it. That's what Spymac is to me... no topping, no finish. Skeletal services with mouldy walls... except the email service which is the only one I still use. To be fair... the galleries might be unique in their scope, I'm not sure. However, they're cumbersome to search and browse, IMHO.
Last edited by Macorian on Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:16 pm; edited 2 times in total