You can’t really feel sympathy for two guys siphoning off the intellectual property of Hasbro for years, just because they finally got enough attention to become newsworthy.
Nor can you feel sympathy for Hasbro or any other mega-corporation too slow-moving to take advantage of the evolving trends in social networking and Web 2.0 technologies.
So where does that leave us? Instead of coming up with a creative solution or way to incorporate a successful web entertainment application (Scrabulous) with an entrenched and tremendously loyal and ever-growing user base, Hasbro tossed it to their lawyers.
Let’s do everything we can to squash innovation and tighten our reign of Scrabble copyright exclusivity, see how that goes over.
I’m reading people talk about boycotting Hasbro. Now that’s something I never expected to see.
What might be a more prudent, progressive, Internet-age way of thinking about this?
Hasbro could bring the developers in-house, re-brand the initiative as Scrabble Online, or something to that effect, maintain the user base and Facebook exposure, not have to start from scratch, and wind up owning a thoroughly developed, well-conceived implementation of their game.
I know that’s oversimplifying something things, but fundamentally it would be a better place to start than with the lawyers.
So what is it about big business that prevents them from thinking this far ahead and taking a chance? Well not all big businesses are stuck in the dark ages, and I think more and more we’ll begin to see the Internet populace drawing lines of support between the ones that make decisions for the common good versus corporate greed.
I’m a businessman. I understand that companies exist to make money. What I’m saying is that at the end of the day there will be even more money to be had by businesses that can get creative, put something out there that is more interesting and that involves more people. Particularly the applications that allow people to use the Internet as they want to. That’s the gimmick of Web 2.0. Modular applications that allow you to build and use the Internet as you see fit.
This scares the hell out of corporations. Lack of control. All of a sudden Hasbro isn’t able to count the number of boxes sold at Target. Things are more complex, less tangible. But it’s the way everything is headed. So get on board or let someone else take over, because you’re heading out of style.
Here are some bits from emails I’ve been shooting around on the subject:
I understand where Hasbro is coming from but it’s really just another example of a giant dinosaur company coming late to the party and rather than coming up with a creative solution to maintain the user base, they just call the lawyers. It’s their right, but like the music industry, I don’t think they understand the kind of blowback they’ll get from this. Nor do they likely care. These guys have been flying under the radar for years, it’s only when they have 2 million Facebook users on the hook that Hasbro takes notice. It’s as much an opportunity for them to gain access to those users as anything. And this happens to be the best online implementation of Scrabble ever. What can you do?
Yeah that’s true. Facebook is clearly getting revenue off all their applications. I think in this case that Facebook is a true innovator and in my mind that means that they have more license to do things and try things. Facebook has a pathetic ad click-through rate and aren’t really making much revenue overall. That didn’t stop them from turning down a 1-billion dollar offer from Yahoo! a few months back. It’s more about the individual innovators in this situation that seem to get the pinch, which is fine since they really just ripped off someone else’s intellectual property (Scrabble). Innovation not in concept but in implementation. Facebook still innovates conceptually, and they get burned by things that don’t work (e.g. that whole system that lets friends know what you purchase).
Frankly, I see where Hasbro is coming from. Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla in the social networking game now. I would be annoyed if I were Hasbro and Facebook was making millions, possibly billions, off of their intellectual property. (I’m anticipating a massive sale of Facebook to some Rupert Murdoch type entity before too long.) Its not so much about the individual users, I imagine it has more to do with one corporation going after another.