When the fictional desk jockeys at Dunder Mifflin on the TV show The Office start moonlighting on a Web 2.0 start-up, the mayhem and laughs that follow at first glance seem to overshadow the potential business model they are lampooning. Because if one were to look closer at the premise for temp Ryan Howard's social network idea, you might see some merit.
Have you ever wanted the ability to communicate to all of your social media channels at the same time. Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook has come the closest to making this a reality by giving users more and more reasons to remain on their site, but it still a self-contained entity that doesn't interface with all social networks (at least not yet).
WUPHF.com (pronounounced "woof"), on the other hand connects not only to Facebook and Twitter, but also to your cell phone, house phone and even your WiFi printer IP and Fax machine. It's a "one click" solution to all channels. It's the 'shiny new thing' that I'm sure a lot of developers have explored but not been able to pull off successfully.
On the show, Ryan's exchange with Michael Scott sums it up as such:
The episode also satirizes Mark Zuckerberg's desire to attract followers versus being motivated by money. "The first lesson of the Silicon Valley is that you only think about the user, the experience, Ryan says. "You actually don't think about the money, ever. WUPHF is about fun, communication, connection," he adds.
In the graphic novel, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," the same point is driven home when Z-Man (aka Mark Zuckerberg) tells VC Man (aka as Sean Parker) that he's in it for "the followers" - not the money.
Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
Ironically, Facebook is on track to score an estimated $1 billion this year in revenue.
Ryan's hypocritical altruism is undercut sharply when he introduces a chart that shows quick monetization for his start-up.
However, since the time-warped industrial mentality of Scrantonites is a far-cry from the vision of those in that operate in the Silicon Valley, the Dunderheads that have invested in Ryan's scheme are easily dismayed when things don't move quick enough. When they learn that the one offer to buy the company is not based on the Web site's business model at all - but solely on it's domain name - they quickly want to bale.
So what do you think about the next big thing in Social Media? Does it have merit? The WUPHF.com Web site actually exists, where you can sign up using your email address, mobile number, home number, Fax, WiFi Printer IP, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Check it out and see if you get WUPHF'd. I already have, but will avoid relating the outcome, for those that don't like spoilers.
P.S. The company that was willing to buy WUPHF was the Washington University Public Health Forum. However if you try to Google it, you'll find it to be fiction as well.