Viral Tags: Infecting the Web With Laughs

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Animated Photo Sharing Tool Enjoys Massive Debut

There's an epidemic spreading on the web - and if laughter is truly the best medicine, this is one healthy infection. The source is Viral Tags, a new online element from XOW! with which users can quickly customize funny animated images for MySpace socializing, web posting, emailing and more.

Viral Tags are enjoying massive and growing popularity, according to XOW!'s CEO Jeff LeBarton. He reports total visits in the 7-figures to http://www.viraltags.com, the website from which Tags are available at no charge, which XOW! launched in October.

"Viral Tags give today's user-generated-content-creators a fast way to customize humorous visual messages," says LeBarton. "We're here to give everybody the tools to be funny and we're delighted they're happy with them. The holiday Tags have gone through the roof."

Viral Tags are amusing animated images which users can customize by inserting their own digital photos and accompanying text greetings. The process takes about a minute. The resulting Tag can be "tagged" (i.e., embedded) to web pages, emails or 'blogs via code the creation tool produces. Every created Viral Tag integrates a link back to the creation site, where a wide variety of Tags are available. Users can choose from an always growing selection of new Tags, like "Raunchy Stick" figures, "Fantasy Garden" fairies, "Porno Party," and a big seasonal offering.

"Viral Tags create their own success," explains LeBarton. "Each Tag placed, say on MySpace as a 'Thanks for the Add' or 'Meet Me Tonight,' draws anyone who sees it to make their own." LeBarton reports that more than 40% of visitors following the links back to the Viral Tags site end up creating Tags of their own, with the majority choosing to customize with their own photos.

The Viral Tag user base has grown completely by word of mouth and the Tag's viral nature, LeBarton notes, and Viral Tag users are becoming an "addicted" group, returning regularly for the new Tags introduced several times a week. Recurring users are over one third," LeBarton observes. "While activity is still strongest in the U.S., overseas activity is rising fast. Using a global tracking map we can watch the spread, country-by-country in our war room."

So what's next in Viral Tags' epidemic of laughter? LeBarton reveals that Taggers can expect online storage, asset sharing, invites, branded content, and promotions for film and TV properties. "We're accelerating production to offer as many new Tags as we can for different tastes and users. We've even got a customized Tag-maker coming soon, so if you don't see one you like, you'll be able to make your own."

As for branded content, LeBarton reports that XOW! is working with urban toy designers to offer Viral Tags based on the artists' characters. LeBarton expects these relationships to lead the way to Tags based on a wide variety of popular brands. "It represents the next step in the unfolding 'Media Revolution,'" he observes, "users mashing up their creations with those of their favorite artists, characters and properties."

LeBarton also reveals that Viral Tags will be a part of a new network comedy series debuting in 2007. "It's too soon to say too much," he declares. "For now, all I can say is it's going to be outrageous, animated, and yes, Viral Tags on your mobile phone, too."

XOW! will release its web-based custom Tag-maker, "The Masher," in early 2007. It will enable users to combine their own uploaded imagery, sounds, and music with a wealth of provided assets to create and customize their own Tags, online and for free. "This is what Viral Tags is leading to," LeBarton explains. "Personalized mash-ups give everyone the power to quickly and easily express their humor visually -- no artistic ability required."

"The current Viral Tags is just the onramp to the realization of our master plan," LeBarton continues. "We want to turn anyone with even the slightest thing to say into a creator using their own, or anybody else's, digital media -- online, free."

By empowering users in this way, LeBarton says, XOW! expects Viral Tags to catalyze a visual mash-up community where users create and share their work. "Humor is a huge part of XOW!'s mission," LeBarton states. "We're here to give the world tools to get more people smiling. If our members and their friends (and even their bosses) are laughing, we're doing our job."

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Jeff LeBarton
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