I had some great plans to work on the Universal Desktop Daily and then go to bed. That was before an invite to Wallop arrived in my mailbox. This thing is absolutely phenomenal. Now people talking about the application seem to be comparing it to MySpace or Facebook, but I don't think that's accurate. I know it's all social networking, and so it was bound to be lumped in with them, but Wallop is an entirely different experience. Calling this a rich social networking application is an understatement, but I think it's a good moniker. I've got a photo gallery up of various Wallop sections here.
Changing the rules
One of the first things I noticed about Wallop is that it changes assumptions about how applications should work. This is exactly the kind of experience I'm talking about when I write about Rich Internet Applications. So much is possible when you free yourself from the browser. No more page model, no more restrictions, you're free to do what you want.
One example of this is the blog engine. It doesn't use HTML to lay out the posts because it doesn't have to. You just have "assets" like text, pictures, and music that you place whereever you want. Your blog post is essentially a canvas that you can do anything with. It's a lot of fun and makes for some cool creative options.
Wallop lets you interact with everything - your music, your blog posts, your pictures, all of it. It's also very media heavy (though I didn't see a tab for videos). You can upload music and play it in Wallop's embedded player. You can also move over to your friend's profile and play music they've uploaded. Photos are the same way. Wallop makes it easy to upload and organize them, as well as share and interact. It's all very community driven, and much more freeform than Facebook or MySpace. It gives a lot of creative freedom, but because it's all Flash, it doesn't look hacked together like MySpace - it all just flows.
Look and Feel
Everything about Wallop screams unique. Picture comments appear right over the picture (once you hover over it) and nearly everything is draggable and droppable. What I like about it so much is that it behaves better than a desktop application, but has all the traits of a web application. You're seeing things like blogs, comments and MP3s but you are interacting with them in an entirely new way.
When you log into Wallop for the first time, you have to be willing to explore. Hover your mouse over parts of the application and see what pops up. I think the experience is akin to loading up a computer game for the first time. You have to feel your way around, test the waters, and see how things react. If you have time, Wallop is a lot of fun.
I can't really test the network aspects out because the service is so new, but I am really impressed with what I'm seeing, and I think Wallop is going to make a splash. Will it make money? Maybe, will it spell doom for MySpace or Facebook? Doubtful. But it will find a niche, and I think it's a glimpse at the future of social networks - heavy on experience.
It's also an example of what is possible when you break free of the browser. Not only would this be impossible to do in Ajax, but the add experience really enhances the application. This is the perfect example of how the web can be. For some people, it's overkill, and that's fine. But for others, this is going to be a fun application that is very intuitive. We're going to see more web experiences like this as it matures, and it is going to be a great thing for Rich Internet Applications.