Too many social sites today are more work than play: another in-box to keep up with, another place to trudge through friend connections, another status bar to update.
Chris Poole may have brought the fun back to social with his new site, Canv.as, which offers users “a place to share and play with images” that’s built with a fierce commitment to spontaneous creativity. Poole is the 23-year-old founder of 4chan, a site famous for embodying the Internet’s id in all its glory and squalor. 4chan’s anonymous community has been behind a number of pranks and Internet “memes,” including “Rickrolling.”
With Canv.as, Poole hopes to bring his countercultural perspective to a site that will gain a mainstream audience, and make a profit. In the process, he also hopes to remind people that socializing is supposed to be fun. “The idea of play was very important to us,” Poole says.
A Canv.as user is greeted with a wall of images—some pretty, some funny, some political. He or she can either manipulate those images using lightweight image-editing software built into the site or upload a new image for anyone to play with.
Users can vote on different images by giving them virtual stickers, and add comments. They can also join groups devoted to specific types of content. The process is simple and inviting, and it resists efforts to control the results of any contribution.
Perhaps most importantly, Canv.as bucks the trend of forcing users to post under their real names, or even post under a consistent identity at all. “Identity is not black and white,” Poole says. “It’s a rainbow. There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities.”
Users can choose whether to post content using their profile, or anonymously. The anonymous option gives someone the opportunity to test the waters, gauging response without having his or her reputation on the line. Users can also decide to claim results after the fact, attaching a name if an effort has been well-received. Poole believes this encourages people to participate more. He says, “Most people have been conditioned to be afraid of the response that they will get. [In Canv.as], you’re rewarded for your success as opposed to being punished for your failures.”
Poole also dismisses the advertising revenue model that sustains most social sites, saying that display ads are “not interesting.” What he does find interesting is the business model made famous by Zynga, which sells small virtual items to people who play its games. He suggests that Canv.as could make money by charging users for cool stickers, extra features, or advanced tools for groups.