FOR A lot of us who grew up watching old US sitcoms back in the 1980s, M*A*S*H had a special place. It was about a bunch of American army doctors stuck in the middle of a war who indulged in some heroics and some black comedy, which made for good viewing.
Fast forward to 2007. The latest version of Mash is about to hit screens very soon. No, not television screens, but the ones found on our desktops or laptops. It’s a social networking website from Yahoo, which aims to challenge Orkut, Facebook and MySpace that have attracted millions of people since their launch.
Few knew what Mash was until last week as it was available only to Yahoo employees as a closed beta service, but a New York Times journalist was accidentally informed about it. Two days later, on September 14, the invitation-only beta version was launched. I, like hundreds of others, left a plea on Mash team leader Will Aldrich’s blog for an invite.
It took three days of impatient wait, but Mash Maniac sent me one last week. I am not on Orkut or MySpace; I exist only on Facebook, which is good enough to network, stay in touch and leave scribbles on a friend’s wall. But like all tech geeks, I am curious and I need to leave my footprints on a site that only a few thousands across the world have accessed.
Aldrich seems like a nice guy. “We’re thrilled that you’re here!” he says on his blog http://blog.mash.yahoo.com/. Well, I am thrilled to be here! I feel unhappy for all those still wandering around in cyberspace looking for that invitation which would let them compare Mash with other social networking sites.
Mash is a new approach to online profiles, Aldrich says, adding that there are some new twists that make things a little interesting and a lot of fun. It allows you to make starter profiles for your friends and you can leave your profile open for trusted friends to add stuff you usually wouldn’t. Now how dangerous can that be? Leave it to your imagination. In short, think Wikipedia, which millions swear by but many don’t trust because it can be changed by all and sundry.
“The very first version of Mash can’t be accused of trying to do too many things at once. It is focused on goofy self-expression and social interplay,” The New York Times said. The main section — About Me — has questions like “If I were an animal, I would be...” Difficult to say, I wrote. Other fill-in-the-blank questions include “The soundtrack of my life,” “What’s most likely playing on my iPod,” “Something I can’t leave home without,” and “My celebrity look-a-likes.” I am still searching for an answer to that one.
And there is no Wall like in Facebook; it’s a Guestbook. Then there is that Blurt, much like those status updates on Facebook. The fun part is you have your own little virtual pet — mine’s called Ugly Fugly — which you can feed, smack, poke, jab or kill if you get too bored with it. The big question I am asking is why would I switch to Mash, and believe me I am not alone.
Older folks using 360 are griping too. “…may I say that we prefer the 360 format and would be quite disappointed if Yahoo decides to replace it with Mash. Don't the teenyboppers have enough sites? We like our blogs …we don't need mindless impersonal social networks. Go ahead and market to the younger crowd,” rivergirl commented on Aldrich’s blog. I don’t really have time for a virtual pet; I am probably old too.