My Aquarium is a virtual fish tank for Facebook. With a current ranking as the 28th most popular app on Facebook according to Facebook analytics site Adonomics I decided I had to see what all the fuss was about.
Economies of Fish Scales
My Aquarium starts off with a cute and harmless about page that looks like a lot of fun. Once I installed it I was greeted with a box informing me that I currently have 250 coins and can invite up to 20 of my friends in order to earn 25 more coins each. At this point it is apparent that the virtual fish for your virtual aquarium are going to cost me some virtual coins so I click a few faces and rack up some coins.
Once I finishing inviting my friends and have accumulated 850 coins I am taken to the main page which displays my empty aquarium, a box to send a fish to a friend, a button to claim my free 75 coins, and a link to earn 2,500 bonus coins. I quickly click to claim my free 75 coins and am taken to a full page ad promoting another application and message telling me to “Come Back Every Day To Receive Your 75 Bonus Coins”.
How to Hook a Fish
One ad a day for 75 free coins is a fair trade, I guess? But that is just the beginning. At this point I’m thinking well if it was that easy to get 925 coins I might as well go for the 2,500 coins next. When I click on the “Click Here To Get Up To 2,500 More Coins” link I am taken to a page with a list of different lead generation links like this one promising me 2,500 coins, and the chance to win a 42 inch plasma television if I fill out a survey.
Now the red flag warnings are going off in my head. They want me to give up a bunch of personal information to generate a sales lead for something I don’t need for 2,500 virtual coins to buy some virtual fish? No thanks!
I return to the main page ready to buy some fish. I click more links, buttons, and tabs only to see the same pattern repeating, each one wants me to invite more friends, view ads, install other applications, or fill out lead generating surveys. At this point I became very frustrated. All I wanted to do was buy fish to fill my aquarium and I couldn’t find where to do this, all of the links felt very misleading and were quickly losing my trust.
After 5 minutes I finally found how to buy fish, a small link below my aquarium at the bottom of the page said “Send Chad A Fish”. Apparently My Aquarium was designed to keep you in this lead generating circle so the basic core functionality of buying a fish you can’t even do without sending yourself a request from yourself.
Once inside the fish store I browsed through a dozen or more cute cartoon looking fish and other marine animals. Adding fish to your aquarium in the store is as easy as dragging and dropping.
Half the fish though are glittery looking and clicking on these pops up a large dialog telling you that you must install the Webfetti Toolbar in order to view them because “Webfetti holds copyrights to glitter text, profile glitter, and talking smileys.” I am not a lawyer, but how do glitter fish fit into any of those?
I bought a few non-glitter fish, jellyfish, and even a shark (500 coins) just to see how they would look. They bob around in your aquarium adrift joining other fish that your friends have sent you as well.
The graphics are certainly cute and any fish lover is sure to enjoy them. In the end though My Aquarium has lost all of my trust. It is easy to see how it has become one of the most popular applications on Facebook with such aggressive marketing techniques. It’s also no wonder how My Aquarium developer Greg Thompson is able to generate the $3 per user annually that he claims to.
Having worked for Internet marketing firms in the past though I know all to well how easy it is to mislead and confuse users into an endless circle of lead generating until they have had enough and uninstall your application. My sincere apologies to all of my Facebook friends who I sent invites to. Now excuse me while I go uninstall My Aquarium.