Mahalo.com is like a drunken Britney Spears—you can’t help but stare and wonder how it survives.
Like Britney, Mahalo.com does way too many strange things and doesn’t behave like a normal member of society. Reinvention was tough for Britney, but she’s at least managing. I can’t say the same for Mahalo.com because it suffers from a major identity crisis.
Mahalo’s reinvention began in October 2008, when CEO Jason Calacanis made sweeping changes for a more dynamic homepage. Those changes included enhancing the existing Mahalo News feature and the addition of LiveBlog, a human newsfeed or ticker.
Calacanis told TechCrunch these changes were inspired by the 10,000 to 15,000 visitors who refreshed the home page multiple times a day looking for new information links. Mahalo News got a minor change with a “top news” category, but Liveblog was meat to sate the Mahalo Community’s hunger for information.
LiveBlog delivers real-time one-liners about news and events happening around the world. Each short sentence is categorized by general descriptors like “News” or by one word commentary on the story, such as “Yikes!” and “Strange.” Users can link to the actual story and Mahalo guide pages that provide additional information.
Categories in the LiveBlog have neither rhyme nor reason. They don’t help organize the stories and good luck trying to find an older post because you’ll be scrolling for a while.
The addition of the Liveblog and other Mahalo Social elements are further evidence of Mahalo’s identity crisis. It’s like Calacanis decided to squeeze everything everyone loves about going online into one page, but didn’t take the time to make any of those elements user-friendly.
To add insult to injury, now Calacanis says Mahalo is a social aggregate.
So let’s recap. The site is a social aggregator, search engine, wiki, news aggregator and social network.
Calacanis bills Mahalo as a “human-powered search engine” but its results pages are lost without the support of Google. The site spends so much time trying to do everything that it doesn’t really do much of anything that another site doesn’t do better. Do you remember the Simpsons episode where Homer’s brother allows him to design a car (“The Homer”) with absolutely every feature he wants (including shag carpet, separate bubble domes, and the result is a $250,000 nightmare that ruins his brother’s automobile company? Mahalo is The Homer.
So, while I like the idea behind the LiveBlog, there are other sites that do similar things far better (Fark.com comes to mind) and Mahalo isn’t giving me anything new.
And while we may not know Britney’s destiny, Calacanis says he has enough funding to keep Mahalo fully bloated and shambling along until 2012 (which, incidentally, is when the Mayan calendar, and thus the world, ends).
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