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By (March 23, 2009) ()

I worked on interaction design for a early attempt at MIP/social networking – it was a startup called MileNet back in the late 90’s.  Their idea was to create a small desktop application that would run in the corner of your desktop, like an IM client. By letting it run (and show ads), you would slowly accumulate frequent-flyer miles. But the innovation was that you would ask your friends to join, and if they did, you’d get a small number of credits for frequent-flyer miles based on their usage, and so on, with their friends (with a diminishing return with each level of indirection, but from a potentially huge network). The user interface would show the size and contents of your network.

At the time, “viral marketing” was a hot issue, and this was definitely trying to leverage that. The idea of social networking was in its infancy (I think few even used the term back then), and I think we didn’t fully appreciate that the social network was the true killer feature of the system. 

When it was launched, it did actually achieve rapid growth.  However, the technology behind it was new and unproven, and the servers weren’t ready to handle the growth. To some degree, it had all of Fogg’s six elements, but at a relatively primitive state compared to Facebook or any other of today’s social networking platforms.

March 23, 2009

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