TechCrunch Disrupt winner Shaker: What exactly is this disrupting?

shakerToday TechCrunch announced that the winner of its TechCrunch Disrupt conference is Shaker, a Facebook-based avatar chat room.

Really? Are we the only ones a little skeptical here? After reading some of the hype about Shaker we went ahead and applied to try the private beta version out. It’s basically a Facebook app that accesses a hefty host of your personal information and then transports you into a virtual nightclub scene. It’s extremely reminiscent of the more recent and outrageous SIMs–which there is also a Facebook app for.

shaker-sorryMaking things ever more frustrating is that Shaker, which is supposed to be in private beta, is too unstable to handle the influx of users it’s getting. At the moment, it’s difficult to enter the “loft” because it’s too crowded. But once inside, you’re able to order drinks for one another, change the music in a very Turntable.fm fashion, and peruse your and other users’ Facebook photos, which are placed on the wall. Basically, Shaker turns Facebook into a bar.

The app is supposed to make Facebook’s social network more social. The idea is that the site isn’t actually very good at getting us to socialize: Instead we spend our alone time catching up. Now, you can chat and mingle and get your stay-in-meets-going-out on.

Our question is does anyone want to do that? Facebook addresses what we want it to pretty well. The News Feed tells us what’s been happening, Chat lets us individually communicate, Photos are a hugely popular feature, and Messages give you access to private conversations. Shaker seems trite and juvenile, and we’d imagine the people most interested in playing it are on the younger side. Why would you go to a fake bar with your Facebook friends when you could go to a real one?

We’ll give it to Shaker that more and more Facebook users are teenagers, and teenagers have proven to love these types of augmented reality games. The likes of Cityville and Farmville are evidence enough. It’s not a bad idea, it just doesn’t seem like an award-winning one. Past winners include innovative sites with impressive designs, like Qwiki, Soluto, and GetAround. These all took Web trends like search, native software, and location and tried new things with them. Facebook apps can be interesting and even lead to obsessive-like behaviors, but there’s hardly anything inventive about Shaker. We’re forced to ask what, exactly, is Shaker disrupting? An off-hand look at its competition, solutions like Cake Health and Vocre, leave us scratching our heads. Does anyone really think Shaker is the pioneer among them?

What’s really disappointing is the fact that this surfaces Michael Arrington’s controversial TechCrunch ties once again. Arrington is a “potential investor” in Shaker (and a current one in the Disrupt runner-up), and fingers are already being pointed at its undeserving win. TechCrunch writer Paul Carr tweeted: “Oh my. Erick [new editor Erick Schonfield] wrote that Mike had no input in selecting the final companies. That was untrue. See Mike’s comment.” The whole thing feels like a thinly-veiled promotion, or at the very least a major misstep. 

And we’ve already uninstalled Shaker, with no plans to go back.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Smart Home

The Google Home Hub doesn’t have a camera. Here’s why that’s a good thing

Bucking the smart display trend, Google's new $149 Home Hub smart display surprisingly doesn't have a camera. We think a camera-less Google smart speaker with a screen is a good thing, and here's why.
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Home Theater

Are there reasons to own a projector when big TVs are so cheap? Glad you asked

Since no single aspect of your home theater setup is more important than your display, we weigh in on the projectors vs. TVs debate. We've put together this comprehensive guide to help you find the right option for your lifestyle.
Virtual Reality

HTC says ‘it takes time to launch a new technology,’ claims lead in VR revenue

HTC posted a response to a Digital Trends editorial charting VR headset sales on Amazon. The company said "it takes time to launch a new technology," and posted data showing it makes the most revenue among its peers.
Mobile

What’s the point of the Note’s S Pen? Samsung needs to find one or kill it

The Galaxy Note 9’s announcement will bring with it another S Pen stylus, a feature only the artistic will get excited about. Samsung should be embarrassed about its lack of use, and we’re hoping the Note 9’s stylus includes new…
Movies & TV

Bored with Netflix? As it goes global, the selection is about to explode

Netflix is going global. And even if you never leave step foot outside America, you should be excited. More subscribers abroad means more original, diverse content, and plenty to watch when House of Cards gets stale.
Mobile

No, blue light from your cell phone won’t make you blind

A new study from the University of Toledo reveals the process by which blue light impacts the photoreceptors in our eyes and leads to macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that causes blindness later in life. The fact that blue…
Computing

Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one

Nvidia's GeForce 2080 is a powerful graphics card that supports ray tracing to deliver real-time cinematic renderings of shadows, light, and reflection in games, but unless you were already planning on upgrading, you'll probably want to…
Wearables

New Wear OS smartwatches have arrived! Here’s why you shouldn’t buy them

The likes of Skagen and Diesel have unveiled new Wear OS smartwatches at IFA 2018. You shouldn't buy them, because they're utilizing an old processor. Qualcomm is expected to announce a new wearable processor next month.
Home Theater

8K is the next big thing in TVs. Get over it

8K is the next big thing in TV. At least, that’s how LG, Samsung, Sony, and Sharp would have it. At IFA 2018, Samsung announced it would begin shipping its gorgeous Q900R series series 8K TVs this year. LG arrived with a glorious 88-inch…
Features

Opinion: Apple needs to modernize its antiquated annual app update routine

While Google updates its core Android apps frequently through the Play Store, Apple saves up core app updates for its annual iOS unveiling. Perhaps it’s time that Apple took a new approach.
Photography

Canon and Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras impress. Should Sony start worrying?

Canon’s EOS R and Nikon’s Z mirrorless systems are coming out of the gate strong, incorporating features that took Sony years to implement and refine. But Sony still has a lead, and may have it for some time.
Mobile

XS Max? XR? Apple’s new iPhone names are a confusing mess

Apple's new iPhone range has the most baffling set of names we've seen in a while, and it's not good news. The phones may be great, but the confusing names shift away from the one brand name everyone knows.