Back in February of 2007, a new social networking website called Virb popped up in an invite-only beta form.
Created by the same people behind the music site Pure Volume, it looked super slick, with highly customisable profiles and cool features like iTunes integration.
At first, people were clamoring for invites and calling Virb the MySpace killer (Facebook at the time was still considered pretty college-y and hadn’t quite take off the way it has today), probably because the site appeared to be a lot more hip than MySpace and wasn’t owned by Rupert Murdoch.
I created a profile right away, as did many people in my extended social networks, both “IRL” and on MySpace. For a few weeks, it felt like EVERYONE was joining.
But within a month, Virb seemed to have fizzled out. And by the end of the year, Facebook, not Virb, ended up being the true MySpace killer, just like MySpace was the Friendster killer.
Which is perhaps why Virb has decided to ditch social networking and take an entirely new turn starting July 1.
From an email that popped into my inbox the other day:
Virb is about to change in a very BIG way. This isn’t just a fresh coat of paint, it’s a departure from free social profiles — a necessary & exciting change to our business.
Our new mission is laser-focused: Virb will be one of the easiest and most affordable ways to build an elegantly simple website. There you have it.
But aren’t there already websites (Tumblr, WordPress, etc.) that allow people to build “elegantly simple” websites? For free? (The new Virb will cost $5/month for existing users, of which there are roughly 350,000, and $10/month for new registrants.) And why would Virb 2.0 be able to compete with said websites if Virb 1.0 couldn’t compete with MySpace and Facebook?
“Our core desire wasn’t ever to build and run a social network,” said Brad Smith, CEO of Virb, which was purchased by the web hosting company Media Temple in June of 2008. “We wanted to build this really cool niche area for the people MySpace didn’t really work for. Virb was going to be an alternative, but we couldn’t keep up.”
He continued: “What Tumblr has done for the simplicity of setting up a blog, we want to do for the simplicity of creating a website. Sure, some people use Tumblr as their website, but at end of day its a blogging platform. We’re taking it a step further to where the entire idea is based around what we’ve always known a website to be — one location for all your content.”
As for revenue, since Virb obviously won’t be sticking ads on users’ personal websites, it will have to rely on users being willing to pony up for the service.
“Based on the feedback we got from the email blast alone, I think they will,” Smith said.
We shall see.
In the meantime, you can read more about the new Virb here.