I have been playing with Wallop, a social networking startup spun out of Microsoft Research, for a couple days now. So far, I am underwhelmed.
First, I have to admit, I am in no way in their target demographic. I am too old and boring, and my dating days are way behind me.
That being said, Wallop looks like a confusing mess to me. The entire site is a giant Flash app with a non-standard and non-intuitive user interface. There are menus and buttons scattered everywhere, but most of them don't do what you want; right-clicking is the primary way of taking action. Everything is rounded, buttons, menus, pictures, everything.
All this stuff is supposed to be hip, I guess. To me, it is just befuddling.
The default view when you first go to Wallop is your "profile", which is just a blob of text. In a circular pattern around that, there is a picture of yourself, a menu bar with a bunch of buttons that are effectively tabs for changing what is displayed, and then little windows around that show you a subset of the content from the tabs (e.g. the title of one of your uploaded MP3s).
The focus on Wallop seems to be on sharing pictures and music. They prominently feature a toolbar for playing uploaded MP3s. There are also communication tools for use inside of Wallop, a messaging system titled "Conversations" and a weblog.
There does seem to be a lot of potential for lurking and ad hoc communication. For example, I can pick people I don't know, look at all their public photos (which is the default setting when you upload photos) and comment on any one I want. In general, it appears you can tag or comment on about any item on Wallop.
There seems to me much less emphasis on the network than on other sites. The network tab shows people in a circular pattern radiating out from you. Looking at friend-of-a-friend relationships seemed slow and cumbersome. I could not find a way to search the network for people I know.
So far, I'm not sure what the appeal would be. It's confusing, cumbersome, not useful, and not fun. I don't get it.
See also my previous post on Wallop, "Microsoft's new Wallop startup", that includes links to academic papers on Wallop published while it was still at Microsoft Research.
See also Kari Lynn Dean's 2003 Wired article on Wallop, "Will Microsoft Wallop Friendster?".