As we approach the twentieth anniversary of founding MySpace, and thirteen years after founding mobile gaming company Jam City, Aber and I are at it again, with Plai Labs www.plailabs.com which leverages web3 and generative AI technology to offer the ultimate online social experience with our new company.
Each successive new advancement in the technological development and capabilities of the web has illustrated new and better ways for people to build value and entertainment around their digital identities. Today, at a new inflection point in consumer technology, on the precipice of the next major evolution of the web, we’re starting Plai Labs to reconstruct the social web from the ground up. We’re drawing on the collective experience of top veteran engineers, game developers, web3, design and AI experts to put all of the latest technological advancements into the hands of the masses in an intuitive, fun way that lets them reap the benefits of their digital identity.
Before 2003 when we founded MySpace, the web was largely static, meaning it was more like a reference guide or encyclopedia for content. You’ll often hear the term “Web 1.0” which essentially means content was published on file servers and the Internet was the thing that allowed you to read this content. That’s it — access the information slowly, off of dial-up and simply read it. It was great if you were a law school student or didn’t want to carry around volumes of books, but it lacked dynamism and the ability to add-to or write additional content being shown.
Around 2001 with Web 2.0, we could then read AND WRITE to the web. Meaning, if you had some knowledge of HTML, you could create and upload written content to a web page and voila — it had an address on the internet, accessible to the world, and you could maybe upload a small image or blinking logo to the page as well.
With MySpace, our goal was to make it easy for everyone, not just coders, to enjoy the benefits of web 2.0 capabilities and to have an intuitive space to manifest their digital identity, flex their creativity and share it with the world. We made it easy to drag and drop content to establish your persona online. We used to say it was like a snapshot of what your bedroom or dorm room looked like — from movie posters, to album covers, books, social causes you stood behind or in most cases, the friends with whom you surround yourself with.
This was the beginning of social currency — likes, comments and your Top 8. And with wider adoption of high speed internet, and mobile phones that could capture video and quality pictures, MySpace became the gateway for a whole generation into the world of online interaction, fueling a revolution in life online. People like Dane Cook, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry were quick to unlock the power of the internet and developed huge followings on MySpace as their first foray into their online existence. And established talent and entertainment brands saw the value of these online communities as very fertile land to grow. For example, The Office premiered on MySpace before it hit NBC TV, Presidential Town Halls with Obama were conducted, and musicians debuted their new singles on MySpace.
In 2009, after having sold MySpace to News Corporation, Aber and I were captivated by the meteoric rise of gaming companies being interconnected to social media and more specifically in Asia, we saw how mobile was becoming a juggernaut for distribution and consumption of gaming as entertainment. Gaming was being democratized for the masses. The time was right for Aber and I to venture onto what we knew would be the next wave of gaming, and we cofounded what is now Jam City.
While at Jam City, we leaned heavily on building analytics and testing tools that helped us understand player behavior, and how to customize each player’s experience to their play level and pace. We doubled down on Live Operations, providing our players with fresh, fun content on a daily basis. We brought big IP titles like Harry Potter, Family Guy and Jurassic Park to fans around the world creating dynamic, dedicated extensions for their massive audiences. Needless to say, we were seeing first hand that the gamers of today were beginning to expect more out of their game experience. Players were becoming more sophisticated and hyper focused on earning and accruing digital goods with power unlocks or even just bragging rights used between fellow players. These goods meant something to them. That “badge” of success or limited edition character was real. As long as others could see it or know they earned it, it had real value.
Taking our experience with social and gaming, we ventured into web3 with a native blockchain interactive experience in Champions Ascension, which is currently in beta and open to NFT holders today and soon to be anyone, right around the corner. Champions is a beautifully developed digital playground packed with crazy looking characters that build and battle in the fictional world of Massina. Every aspect of this gamified metaverse takes advantage of the creative tools that we believe will shepard us into a new interactive entertainment realm. Our internal magic-makers (animators, illustrators, designers, engineers) will continue to iterate and open up this world for more folks to experience. Additionally, our User Generated Content platform gives a paintbrush to every player and developer to bring all into our Creator Economy. As we continue the Champions Ascension journey with Plai Labs, we want you in there, breaking and building, heckling and hanging and taking ownership of what you do with it. Click thru to www.Champions.io.
We’re also now seeing the rise of a different type of content creator, one who wields their creative prowess by your ability to interact + train sets of data to output images that the world has never seen before. THIS human-to-artificial intelligence, hands-on experience marks the moment that the masses see and feel AI for the first time. This is a place where PLAI Labs is excited to build. And for the last year, as we’ve run a parallel path developing Champions Ascension as well as the platform + products that power this new social experience, we’ve been developing and leveraging new AI and generative art protocols within Champions.
We love this intersection where AI connects with and inspires creators. We want to spend more time here — and as evidence of your social feeds over Christmas Break…the world is starting to love it too. Products like Stable Diffusion, DALL-E and Midjourney have helped fuel this new arena of visual art. Plai Labs has a number of products in the lab that we believe will turbo charge this space. Keep one eye on us for something coming very soon (insert ominous Dr Evil laugh here).
If there’s one thing we learned while starting MySpace and building games that get downloaded in the billions at Jam City it’s this: the experience needs to be fun and approachable to reach a broad audience of users. You didn’t have to be a coder to use MySpace. Just a passion-powered creator. And we unlocked the power of mobile phones to create super gaming devices for playing with friends around the globe. Now with Plai Labs, we’re combining some of those same ethos to merge social and entertainment together on a new stage — one that allows users to experience new models of ownership, community, monetization and content creation.
Our team of innovators and do’ers are best in class. We’re carefully architecting a company whose products are all interconnected and act as a stepping stone for more. Most importantly, the products and experiences we are developing will be fun (sometimes people forget that!), communal and help fuel the next iteration of social networking for millions to enjoy.
And we’re doing all of this with the backing and partnership of investors, with a16z Games + a16z crypto leading a $32 million seed round.
We can’t wait to see what you’ll do on our new platform!
Chris, Aber and the Founding Team of Plai Labs