$3 million "Afterworld" debuts on MySpace TV; Windows Live Messenger comes to Bebo; New York Times launches personalized start page; Playboy creates social network for students

The social web weekly: a quick-fire roundup of some of the news, announcements and conversations that have occurred throughout the week…
Written by Steve O'Hear, Contributor on

The social web weekly: a quick-fire roundup of some of the news, announcements and conversations that have occurred throughout the week…

  • $3 million "Afterworld" debuts on MySpace TV. In what could be the most expensive online video production to-date, "Afterworld", an animated series about a man who wakes up to find most of the world's population has vanished, debuted on MySpace TV this week. LA Times reports: "The production spans 130 episodes, each lasting two to three minutes. The show is free and supported by advertising." The show's creators, all of whom have a background in Hollywood and network TV and video game production, will share ad-revenue with News Corp., rather than be paid a fixed fee up-front. "Targeting teens to adults in their early 30s, the show has the photo-realistic look of a video game with a mythical universe and plenty of interactive features. A map posted on the show's website allows fans to explore the journey. Fans also can suggest plot lines, solve puzzles and interact with some of the characters, who will have their own blogs on MySpace."
  • Windows Live Messenger comes to Bebo. The Windows Live Messenger service (formerly MSN Messenger) now powers Bebo's new IM functionality. Users of the social networking site can link their existing Windows Live usernames with Bebo's service so that an "IM Me" button appears on their profiles, from which they can then IM with other members, using Bebo's browser based client. Additionally, Bebo's IM is also open to members without a Windows Live Messenger account. As Webware notes: "Essentially, the partnership integrates existing Windows Live accounts into Bebo and also provides a robust base for the Web-based chat interface."
  • New York Times launches personalized start page. Called "My Times", the new feature of the Times' website aims "to create a unique Web portal, one that lets information-hungry NYTimes.com readers more easily find relevant articles not only from The Times but from all over the Internet." It's very similar to the start-page functionality offered by Yahoo, Netvibes and Pageflakes -- although not as sophisticated-- by enabling users to create a personal homepage for news and mini web apps, through adding RSS feeds and other widgets. Dave Winer isn't impressed, suggesting that the NYT hasn't brought anything new to the table. Josh Catone, over at Read/WriteWeb, also notes that the only thing different about "My Times" is that users can also receive recommendations from NY Times journalists. Whilst I don't disagree that the idea is unoriginal, it's such a good fit for an online newspaper that I don't think it really matters. I visit the website of the UK's "The Guardian" newspaper almost daily. If I could customize the layout and content, tailored to my own interests, that would be ideal.
  • Playboy creates social network for students. AP reports that Playboy has launched a "sexy "social networking site dedicated solely to college students. It may reek of desperation, along with a lack of originality (the brand is flagging and the magazine continues to lose money and readers), but it might just work. Since Facebook opened its doors beyond college students, there is certainly room for a social networking site that limits entry to the campus crowd, and especially one that positions itself as a more risqué alternative. However, whether that's Playboy, only time will tell.

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