I’m torn, and so perhaps that’s why I come late to the rally of Scrabulous fans hoping to save the popular Facebook app from a cease and desist order by rights holders Hasbro and Mattel.
I respect intellectual property and I’m not a fan of liberating rights from anyone, even big corporations. (For the record, I don’t believe that “information wants to be free.” I believe people don’t want to pay for information, even if it’s critical to their work and life.)
But . . . I love Scrabulous. I love it because it’s an enjoyable game, of course, and I relish my regular victories over Carla. More importantly, I appreciate that it has become the platform that brings me together with family and colleagues with whom I might not regularly engage. My niece in Pittsburgh. Carla in Texas. Kristin in San Carlos. We talk from time to time, of course, and there’s always email. But Scrabulous keeps us engaged. It’s the table around which we talk, not just about the game, but also about work and politics and life in general.
Yet there’s more to this game than seven-letter word scores. Silly as it sounds, Scrabulous is, quite possibly the enabling application for Facebook.
Drive-by Wall postings and virtual beers aside, there are few applications in Facebook that better demonstrate the collaborative potential of the platform. The vast majority of Facebook apps are cute and trivial. Once you’ve tossed a book at someone or demonstrated your talent for movie trivia, there’s really not much to hang around for. Unless, of course, you have a reason to come back. For some 600,000 Facebook users, Scrabulous is that reason.
What Facebook needs to do is spend some of its outrageous market cap to secure the right to offer this app on its platform. In so doing, they keep half a million-plus customers engaged the Facebook and with one another while they bide their time waiting for more “useful” collaborative applications to come to the platform.
The whole situation reminds me of Windows 3.0 in the early 90s. I argued then that Solitaire was the enabling app for the new OS. While business people waited for decent Windows applications to come to market, they kept 3.0 on their machines to play a card game. Scrabulous serves the same purpose for Facebook today.
So forget Facebook groups vowing to “Save Scrabulous.” User hue and cry won’t affect Hasbro and Mattel in the battle to protect their IP. Instead, Facebook needs to get out the checkbook and make the problem go away. Because it’ll be far more expensive if they don’t have its most popular, most engaging, most collaborative application to while away the time until really productive applications come along.