iHeart: 29 Million Users and Counting

When I first stumbled upon iHeart, I thought it was an early Valentine’s Day application, but upon closer inspection it’s the return of the “Poke” fad that used to dominate the top ten charts for Facebook Applications. Upon deeper inspection, iHeart is a tremendously simple ‘game’ that has found its casual audience in a world of more complex Facebook Applications.

In iHeart, the concept is simple: you add the application, and then proceed send a variety of animated hearts to your friends. With each heart you send or receive, the faster your own animated heart will pump when you log in. That is the entire extent of gameplay in iHeart. There is no actual gameplay, no socializing, no monetization and no point other than to simply let your friends know you care with an animated heart. It’s hard to even consider this a game, as it’s more of a greeting-card style application.

I once derided these types of ‘Poke’ clone applications as superfluous, but the numbers don’t lie, and looking at iheart’s numbers we can see that it has immense popularity. I now feel that in the context of today’s application platform, iHeart demonstrates that there is a place for simplicity.

When we look at the top ten applications by visits, we can see that the most popular applications and games such as Mafia Wars or Cafe World have steadily been including more complex social elements. This is precisely what early application creators / reviewers (including AllFacebook) were hoping for years ago. As this has happened, there has also emerged a happy medium for super-hit games like Farmville, where the game mixes initial simplicity with a deeper potential for gameplay

The proliferation of such games has raised the awareness of the average Facebook user about the potential for Facebook Applications to actually be meaningful, entertaining content, rather than the simple “poke” applications of years past. That said, some of the new interest is from people who have no desire to engage with complex game mechanics.

For those people, the ‘poke’ game, disguised as iHeart, has returned. With its numbers, it is not only a simple quick diversion, but the most popular way that Facebook users can tell someone they care. The game is so popular that people that write enthusiastic reviews about it. It cuts into Facebook’s own ‘gifts’ market by being completely free, although I wouldn’t be surprised if iHearts begins to use the Facebook currency to attempt to monetize.

Another interesting question raised by the success of iHeart is why this particular application took off, but not Give a Heart, Messages from the Heart or any of the over 500 results that appear when you search applications for “heart”. There certainly is an element of timing and luck to the success of ‘poke’ style applications, but if iHeart teaches us any lesson, it’s that these types of applications have and will have a place for years to come.

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