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.

Home Theater

Why I still won’t wear wireless headphones

Wireless headphones promise liberation from cords, tangles, and snags, but there’s just one issue holding them back: battery life. And until manufacturers figure it out, sales numbers prove consumers aren’t yet biting.
Movies & TV

September brings 'The Dragon Prince,' an animated war series, to Netflix

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Updating to Apple’s iOS 12 will make your iPhone a whole lot smarter

iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s iOS, is officially here. We took it for a spin to check out its new noteworthy features, and if it truly changes our smartphone habits for the better.
Mobile

Dozens of bite-sized features add up to a feast in Android 9.0 Pie

Google’s latest version of Android is here, and it’s called Android 9 Pie. We’ve been using it for the past few months on a Google Pixel to see how this flavor stacks up.
Movies & TV

2018 Emmy Awards winners: The night of ‘Mrs. Maisel’ and diversity

The 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, was full of laughs and drama, as well as some surprises. Here is the full list of nominees, winners, and highlights from the show.
Home Theater

We all cut cable, and now we’re just as screwed on streaming

As live TV streaming services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue raise prices in tandem, it raises questions about whether these services were ever a viable alternative to cable in the first place.
Home Theater

AT&T wants to make HBO more like Netflix, and it could be a disaster

After acquiring HBO parent company Time Warner, AT&T is pushing HBO to become more like Netflix, but for all of Netflix’s success, this plan might not be great for either HBO or its customers.
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…
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…
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.