Capazoo.com: Flashy Social Networking

January 30th, 2007 at 12:00 am
 


 

Many social sites have made millions recently. The most successful ones made their sites user friendly, browser friendly and connection friendly. In the Web2.0 generation of websites, the usual tools are a database, PHP, Javascript, CSS and Ajax among others. These features ensure the efficiency and consequently the effectiveness of the social network.

The above mentioned technologies were designed to streamline the vast amount of data traveling through the information superhighway to maximize iterative processes such as database search, entry and retrieval. Yet there are some sites that insist on using a data-heavy Flash integrated site. Although Flash is great for animations and out-of-this-world effects, it still consumes too much bandwidth that most personal connections would take longer to load. Besides, many (if not all) of Flash effects can be emulated by Ajax, CSS and Javascript. Anyway, like I said, Flash-heavy sites are discouraged in Web 2.0 especially for social networking sites, yet there are some that have successfully implemented Flash sites as social networks. Among these sites are Wallop, Mooble, and the topic of my review, Capazoo.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Flash and Flash-heavy sites. They are nifty, amazing, catchy and mind-blowingly attractive! Capazoo would not disappoint any graphic artist. The layout, the buttons, the animations, they’re all so good. Unfortunately for Capazoo, looks are skin-deep. First of all, it takes a whole lot of time to load up. I’m already using a 2.5Mbps connection, and still I could watch a movie teaser on Youtube before Capazoo finishes loading a page. Of course, once the page was cached it was a little faster. Still it’s annoying, some people would not be so patient.

"My Life" and "Private Life"

Like all social networking sites, users must create their profiles and have the option of editing them. Flash comes in handy when customizing an account. Although it’s slow, the UI for customization is quite entertaining. Unlike most sites that just let users upload their avatar photo, wallpaper, Capazoo adds an animated carousel effect to its selection process. The carousel animation also extends to the selection of color scheme which is equivalent to the CSS template selection in other social networking sites. The entire process of changing a profile’s style is very easy but this has a major setback. Being a Flash-based site, Capazoo is not as versatile as CSS and Ajax based sites hence the style possibilities are limited. Capazoo also features a private profile or "private life" for its users. This is not entirely new but still useful.

Adding and editing stuff about yourself in Capazoo is all possible under the "My Private Life" interface. Here you can write a journal, make a schedule or agenda, manage talkbacks (sort of like testimonials in Friendster). By default, Capazoo lets the user control the information that is to be made public and private. So to make something public, there is a tiny checkbox you should tick so your new entry would appear on your public profile. This is quite the opposite in Friendster but it isn’t much of a big deal.

A useful feature on the "My Life" is the agenda. Here, users can display their schedules for everyone else to see. This comes in handy when you expect people to build their schedules around yours. Again, not original but still useful.

Lastly for this category, no pictures aside from the avatar?

"Member Gallery"

Now it really wouldn’t be a social network if you couldn’t see other people. The "Member Gallery" is where all members are found. I can list down a permutation of problems here but I’ll keep it simple.

There is no search function.

Users can view other people by another carousel animation that provides images of 20 members at a time, the worse part is, it’s all random and the worst part is, there no names displayed. There is a "more" button that refreshes the images on the carousel with another 20 images.

At this point, Capazoo has interfaced dynamic Flash and a database and there’s a huge problem with this. The browser’s back button breaks. So if you want to go back to the previous carousel of images, the site loads a different set every time. Not so good.

On the other hand, the member gallery becomes quite friendly when you click on a member. Upon clicking, the member’s summary profile is automatically shown on the right panel. Done in Ajax, this process is much faster since there are no Flash components to load.

Regardless, the member gallery is generally disappointing and frustrating.

"Invitations"

Social networks allow members to invite other members. This is the core of a social network and Capazoo is no different. Adding friends can be done using the member gallery, inviting new members to the service is done through email invitations. Using this function entitles the user to earn Zoops in a somewhat multi-level-marketing (MLM) scheme. These Zoops are the currency of Capazoo and will eventually enable users to exchange of "buy" stuff within the network. It’s not really clear yet how the Zoops will work and Capazoo says they’re still working it out.

"Email"

I haven’t mentioned it yet but the nickname for Capazoo is CZ. Hence they call their email service CZ Mail. Probably the best thing about Capazoo to date is their free email service. When users sign up for their own CZ account, they automatically receive a CZ Mail account as well. Their address is username@capazoo.com. Not bad. The email service is powered by Zimbra. I’m not entirely sure if this is the first of its kind but this could be the silver lining on the rough cloud engulfing Capazoo in its Beta version.

Charity

There’s a message in the "about" link in CZ. It says, 7% of the sites earning will be distributed among the users. It’s not clear if this is going to be in cash or Zoops but definitely it’s a first in social networking. Furthermore, 1% of the site’s earnings will be donated to a charity of the members’ choice.

Upcoming

Still in its Beta version, Capazoo promises many more features including Zoops (debit card and savings account), blog news, video, photos, and music.

Capazoo was quietly launched mid-December 2006 and I guess it was a wise thing to do with all the problems I encountered. All in all, Capazoo is a great ambition both socially and technically. Not to mention very noble as well. But before any generation of Capazooers begin, the site definitely needs a lot of renovating, tuning-up, suping-up and polishing if it intends to compete with the tycoons of social networking.