We talk about things going viral on social media, but what does a social network designed to literally spread like a virus look like? Look no further than Plag. Currently on iOS and Android, Plag (stylized as Plag**) is a new social media that aims to spread content like a global infection. With a lot less dead bodies, and a lot more cat videos.
In most social networks, you start by choosing people to follow. Not Plag. When you sign up, you’re automatically connected to every other Plag user in the world. But that doesn’t mean you can send updates directly to them. Instead, each update you make has to spread out as an infection mapped to the physical meatspace around you.
Here’s how it works. The app is minimalist and card based, like a streamlined Google Now for content. Let’s say I want to post a GIF of my parakeet trying bacon for the first time. In Plag, I create a content card with that GIF, which then “infects” the card stack of the four nearest Plag users. If they like my GIF, they swipe up, spreading the infection to the next four users closest to them. If they don’t, they can halt the contagion by swiping down, choosing not to spread it further.
There’s not much more to it than that. You can comment on other people’s posts, but there’s no way to follow individual users. You can see statistics as to how viral your content cards are, but if there’s a way that Plag distinguishes itself from other social networks, it’s this; ultimately, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks are about creating your own personalized communities. Plag, on the other hand, is about taking part in a constantly evolving super-community… a living macro-organism, very much like a virus.
Since it launched late last year, Plag has been doing fairly well. Six weeks after launch, it chalked up over 100,000 users, and my Plag stream is filled with content from as far away as Budapest and Hong Kong. New updates have steadily come to the app over time: for example, a recent update that added a feature in which infections are bounced back by political borders, keeping certain content quarantined to countries. If only real outbreaks were so easily repelled.