Thursday, May 24, 2007
Chess.com in Beta Launch
I’m sure we’ve all entered www.chess.com into our browser one day and saw nothing. It's a very obvious domain name after all. Well it seems that 2 years ago, the name was bought by some clever so-called “webpreneur” in Palo Alto, California with designs on creating the “the #1 online chess community!” Chess.com launched in beta mode last week and, from what I see, things look very exciting.
What I Like
The site is FREE to join, so far anyway. But site owner Erik, with whom I exchanged emails today, said that premium services may be made available at some point in the future.
Chess.com has ambitions to be an all-in-one chess players paradise - for coaches, tournament organisers, players. As expected there is a forum for discussions, news, an events calendar and, something of some interest to me, a blogging service. I took this last one for a little whirl and it ain't bad.
Creating blog posts was easy-peasy. You can read my first post Hello World now. (See also my test posts in the forum with a demo of game annotation). What impressed most was inserting games. Except for the cut-and-paste of the PGN, everything was at a click of the mouse! Total snap.
Also cool is the email service. Not so cool is that we're limited to attachments of only 10Mb and storage of 50Mb. Peanuts, hardly useful. As Erik says, he's not Google!
There is a play function but right now it seems to be only against the computer. The developers, however, are promising the standard user-vs-user ability soon that includes correspondence game play as well. If the site takes off, who knows, they might very well prove a challenge to ICC and Playchess. But that's I guess wishful thinking.
What I don't Like
My first gripe was from the sign-on. There was no confirmation of user credentials via email, so make sure to write down your user ID and password somewhere in case you forget one or both of them.
And the homepage layout reminds me of my personalised iGoogle and netvibes. There are "modules" (or grids) of content around the page. Problem for chess.com is you can't actually move these modules around to your liking or even turn them off. For example, "Newest Members" is right smack bang in the middle of my page. Well, I actually care less about who these guys are and more about, say, recent news or blog posts.
There is no way to see my profile as others see it which is a feature that I liked over at LinkedIn. It would also be useful, I think, to have a small dashboard with quick links to common actions like "write a blog post", "read/write email", etc. Right now all I see is a "My Home" link and even that is oddly placed as it's located in the upper right corner of my screen.
For a while I kept wondering where the "Home" link was. There isn't one! If you didn't know that the chess.com icon in the upper left does the same job as "Home", then you're likely to be lost. Then again, that's a really minor issue.
Lastly, I do want to see some greater customisation for the blogging service. I'm talking templates, layouts, a personalised URL (i.e. closetgrandmaster.chess.com) - the works!
All in All
Chess.com could potentially be the game's social networking site of choice! What they need now are some good and relevant content first of all and the crowds will follow. It sounds like they're putting out the call for some help in that regard so any potential bloggers, writers or journos should best sign up now and get in touch.
In terms of functionalities, the basics are there but I'm not sure I'll migrate my blog any time soon. Speaking for myself only, being tied too closely to a chess site for my blogging purposes, when I'm often opinionated, could present some problems. For those who just want to share something about their chess lives like recent tournament performances, games, book reviews, whatever - then chess.com will probably do.