People spend too much time trying to be right, not enough time running experiments and exploring ideas— Jonah Peretti (@peretti) May 8, 2012
Years ago when we were just getting comfortable with the idea of “friending” another person with a computer—that is, storing a value in a database that represents your belief they will also store a value in a database that, when queried, will display for others to see—a strange little site appeared out of nowhere.
It was called Breedster, a play on the name Friendster, and it briefly took over people’s lives only to (as planned) utterly destroy and eat itself.
Every year or so I think about Breedster. Part of why I am writing this is so I can spare Google attaching the terms: “social site, friends, bugs, std, disease, eat poo” to my profile every time I want to tell someone about it.
Yes really. I wasn’t as active on it as most people, but the gist (from memory) was you were a bug hatched from an egg, ate food (or poo in a pinch) for energy, and then had sex with others to create more eggs of your own. The whole point of the game was to consume food to have energy to have sex and then repeat.
A few weeks into the game, when players were inviting as many people as they could to then have sex with them, something strange happened. First it was simply disease found in poo that would sap your energy over time. But then it was a sexually transmitted disease that people had already unwittingly contracted.
Their eggs would no longer hatch. Bugs died due to lack of energy. The whole site became infected and everyone died.
This is from memory. I may have gotten some details wrong (and would appreciate any corrections) but what I loved about Breedster was that they were exploring an idea in real-time with hundreds of other people and had the good sense to see a conclusion. A few people, like me I hope, think about that site every so often and marvel at how cool it was that they did that.
We’re so comfortable now with, as Adam calls it: the “Ad Supported Like Economy”, that it doesn’t even bother us we effortlessly move back and forth from asymmetrical (Twitter) following to symmetrical (Facebook). That we willingly store our relationships in relational databases for ad networks to scan and learn about us so that we can have a pinch of validation of our ideas, photos, taste, and meta-tastes.
I put Jonah Peretti’s tweet at the top of this post because it reminded me of sites like Breedster. They had an opinion about these new social sites and rather than write a blog post or complain bitterly on the nearest PHPBB forum, they created something that burrowed so deep into my brain that 8 years later I still think about it.
UPDATE FROM THE DRUNKMEN (MAN) HIMSELF:
@torrez Tiny correction: though the std was called AIDS by many members, it never killed. Deaths were self chosen (= terminate account).— Drunk Men Work Here (@drunkmen) May 9, 2012