NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Mark Pincus â¿¿ the other Mark of Silicon Valley â¿¿ helped usher in the Facebook era with catchy games that got people clicking on virtual cows and building virtual cities while staying on Facebook for hours on end.
Named after Pincus's late American Bulldog, Zynga, the company that gave us "FarmVille," ''CityVille" and "Bubble Safari" is now stretching the limits of its Facebook leash by steering players to its own digital gaming hub.
Tuesday marked the second Zynga Unleashed event at the company's sprawling San Francisco headquarters. Last year, it used the occasion to launch what was then known as "Project Z," a place for people to play Zynga games on the company's own platform, rather than on a social network such as Facebook. This year brought more games and new social-networking features centered on gaming."Project Z" is now Zynga.com. It's a place separate from Facebook, sure, but much as a clever canine that knows not to steer too far from its human companion, Zynga isn't leaving Facebook behind. People who want to play games on Zynga.com still use their Facebook identities to log in. Once there, though, it's a place free of status updates, news links and baby photos that clutter Facebook. Instead, it's all about games. Zynga wasn't Pincus's first project, but it's by far the biggest. The Chicago-born Harvard Business School graduate founded an early social network, Tribe.net, in 2003. Tribe was created to let people form online communities around shared interests, but it never gained the kind of following that Friendster and MySpace would just a couple years later. He also founded FreeLoader Inc., an Internet technology startup he sold for $38 million. Pincus recognized the promise of social networks early on. He was one of Facebook Inc.'s earliest investors. And in 2003, he and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, bought a "broad and sweeping" patent covering social networking, wrote David Kirkpatrick in "The Facebook Effect." Hoffman told Kirkpatrick that the purchase was a defensive move, "to make sure no one would kill the nascent industry" by using such a patent to block emerging networks.
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