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Going through the 2011 Crunchies finalists. I came across Fab.com, a lifestyle marketplace for small-scale art/craft/design products. With a large and very diverse catalogue, presented through dedicated sale events, and large discounts on retail prices. With deep social network integration that generates a stream of comments, conversations on the products and shows who buys what. The design is very visual, interactions are minimal, and mainly concerned with navigating the catalogue and social streams, rather than drills-down and transactions. Fab.com is another good example of tablet-first design that translates very nicely to desktop navigation.

One of Fab.com “core beliefs” is “Exceptional customer experience is our most valuable design”. And indeed I did experience something exceptional while signing up.  But unfortunately not in a positive sense……

Access was not granted immediately, and I joined the waiting list. However, I had the possibility to “jump to the front line” by inviting friends and having three of them sign up. One of the best things of the web is selfless virality, the spontaneous sharing of information that we think is of interest and value to others. Fab.com challenges this basic principle by providing direct incentives to recommending and sharing. It is obviously not the first time sharing has been used to sign up new users. What is fundamentally different is that, in previous cases, from Paypal to Dropbox, the invitation to sign up for the service was a condition to complete a social exchange: a payment in the case of Paypal, access to digital content in the case of Dropbox. In the case of Fab.com, the invitation is a pure act of marketing. Furthermore, it introduces the risk of spamming and of being perceived as a spammer. It is thus likely that invitations will be sent not to the closest people but rather to more peripheral people, with a significant impact on virility, as the invitation and recommendation carry much less weight and influence. A last observation. It is terribly selfish to invite friends to join a long queue with the objective of jumping to the front line……..

Anyway, I did not send any invitations, and a few hours later I got access to Fab.com.