Oink, the first product to come out of Digg-founder Kevin Rose‘s Milk project, launched on iOS earlier this week. At this point, the thought of seeing yet another location-based app that lets you rate things may induce some involuntary yawning in you. After testing it for a while now, though, I have to say that while I was highly skeptical of trying yet another app in this space, Oink actually puts enough of a twist on the genre to be interesting and to become a potential challenger to similar services like Foursquare (or even Yelp) in the long run.
The big difference between Oink and Foursquare or Yelp is that Oink doesn’t focus on places so much as on the things inside them. Instead of rating a local restaurant, for example, you would rate the pizza you had there. While it uses your location to make it easier for you to tag your discoveries, it doesn’t bother you with pointless check-ins.
The app features the usual fixings you would expect from this kind of service: an activity stream, the ability to discover popular things around you, access to your profile and, of course, the ability to add your own ratings, photos and comments. While the app is extremely well designed, though, the real game-changer here isn’t so much the app itself, but the idea that users care more about finding interesting things or the best coffee around than the best restaurant or store
In many ways, adding this granularity to these kinds of apps is really the next evolutionary step. After all, that cool coffee shop where all the hipsters hang out with their Macbook Airs may make a mean espresso, but may not actually make that great iced coffee you really want right now. While it clearly looks forward, though, Oink is also a throwback to the old days of Web 2.0, as its tagging system lets users tag virtually anything with any tag without imposing any clear structure.
Oink also goes beyond location by allowing you to rate and tag virtually anything. There is plenty of talk about books and games on the system right now, for example.
As users rate more items related to tags they are using, they will gain “cred.” This ramification element may attract some of the more competitive folks out there, but there are no Foursquare-like discounts to be had yet (which in return means you don’t have to worry about retaining your mayorship either, of course).
Overall, then, Oink puts enough of a twist on this genre to be interesting – something that can’t be said about most of the new entrants in this oversaturated market for ratings+photo sharing apps. As any new service, it suffers from the fact that there isn’t much of a community on it yet – especially if you don’t live in San Francisco – but I’ve got a feeling that it will quickly attract a very dedicated following.
The folks from Taap.it Live Local want to help any Oinkers who want to save their Oinks. Per Tom Nguyen, Community Manager withTaap.it: "With a simple, one step Oink-to-Taap Import Tool located at http://taap.it/import-oink , former Oinkers can convert their painstakingly accrued Oinks into Taaps, and continue rating specific things inside places.
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This is a natural evolution in granularity, and makes a lot of sense. For example, when people need to go shopping they generally think of the product they want first, and then manually (and unconsciously) translate that product need into the store that might have it. That process favors the larger retailers who have larger share of mind. Retailigence (and our API for developers of real products on the shelves of stores) looks forward to powering these new solutions and use-cases!
Does the fact that you have to explain to someone how and when to use this app (i.e. don't rate the location, rate what's in the location) mean it misses the mark or ahead of its time? My feeling is that when we get down to rating the cushion on the chair in the location you're in we've crossed some sort of viable business line.