At a recent gathering of new-media types, the subject of boo.com
came up. Or, should I say, it came up again.
Out came the metaphorical baseball bats, and with some relish and not a
little humour, the assembled began to beat the proverbial crap out of
the UK internet industry’s favourite joke.
But, even better, a few brave people put their hands up and admitted to
having worked on developing elements of boo.com. This in turn produced a
round of guffawing and sniggers and qualified as excellent fun.
But if boo.com comes in for ridicule, it’s for some pretty good reasons:
if you are going to set yourself ludicrous deadlines, you shouldn’t miss
them by a whopping, world-beating five months.
And even when it did arrive, back in November, it wasn’t exactly
perfect, and it’s still a Mac-free zone. But, hey, we all know that Macs
and the internet aren’t the cosiest of bedfellows.
But if the venture capitalists are on your back and you are playing with
pounds 120 million of their money, maybe you just have to go ahead and
Things still may not be perfect, but what has been launched is an
ambitious site and more than a step in the right direction.
The people at boo.com have created something that attempts to improve on
and advance the basic experience of online shopping. That isn’t a joke
by the way. I’m serious.
Somewhere along the line it has slipped imperceptibly into common
acceptance that online shopping is just - and nothing else - a
hit-and-run, in-and-out experience. This probably stems from the idea
that people who shop online don’t want any fuss or to waste any time,
they just want to get what they want and get it now. Or maybe I am
confusing them with men.
Whatever. This is simply not true. Some people might want to buy a book
in under four minutes, but others will, from their comfort of their PCs,
be quite happy to browse an online store like boo.com just as they would
a high-street store In Real Life.
You would hope that not all of these online stores went for that bland
Amazon.com kind of look and feel, but instead were brave and interesting
online environments that attempted to break new ground and offer
something different. Sites that were, well, you know, kind of fun and
kind of cool.
Boo.com is getting there with features like allowing e-shoppers to zoom
in on products or spin them through 360 degrees, which, along with other
innovative elements like trying clothes on using a virtual mannequin and
Ms Boo, are very cool - and, no, I’m not just saying that about Ms Boo
because I spend far too much time online.
Boo.com is a nod to the future in another way as well. It is one of a
small but growing band of sites that recognise that while English
dominates large parts of the globe, the world is bigger than that. And
if the web is global then multilingual sites like boo.com will win
Congratulations are in order. Boo.com has been creative and interesting,
and let’s hope it continues to be so. Otherwise this is all going to
suck pretty heavily quite fast.