People buy luxury cars—at least in part—because they are aesthetically pleasing. The same motivation drives people to auto parts stores for spinners to go with essentials like new tires. 3B is attempting to capitalize on a similar premise with its new navigation tool. Currently free for download, the 3B.net browser is designed to mimic a shopping mall or town center in order to leverage one of the most fundamental human behaviors: window shopping. So, if you see something you like, you head inside to get a better look.
The company chose this metaphor because, as Nicole Morris, CEO of 3B, says, "our studies have shown that women react very positively to the browsing effect because it's like a mall—and most women love malls." 3B doesn't limit its landscape to the local mall, however. When a user downloads the 3B browser, they start at an airport. From here they are given an option of cities to visit. After the user enters the Lifestyle city, for example, the experience is like walking through an open-air shopping plaza, complete with 3-dimensional buildings. This particular city is broken up into different districts that include music, home and garden, and wellness. As the user walks through a district, they are offered many sites related to that subject, which they can click through.
When it aggregates Web sites into the different cities, 3B allows users to go directly to sites, such as Amazon if they see a CD or DVD they want to purchase. "Retail is our number one focus right now," says Morris. "But a close second in the future will be travel." Sites are aggregated in two ways: relevance and importance from a design point of view. Not every subject is suited to the 3B experience, according to Morris, who says, for example, law is not a likely city-subject because it is textually based. "3B is a visual browser, and text-heavy pages will not work as well," says Morris.
While the browser is currently free for download, Morris says that "in about three to four months we will begin the charging process," though the company has not yet finalized pricing. Presently, 3B has two primary means of revenue: the Virtual Property Model and Stores. The Virtual Property Model allows advertisers to rent a display window within a city for $10 a week. They can choose where they want their ad to be located—somewhere with high visibility or next to a competitor, for example. As far as advertising in stores, the retailer pays on a cost-per-click basis. 3B also allows users to create villages in which users can copy and paste a URL of whatever they like and create their own space. They are allotted between 60 and 90 windows for their village, two or three of which are designated for 3B's use.
A fee-based alternative to the village is the mini store, which is the same size as the village but offers functionality that enhances load time. Though pricing for the store is not yet set, the mini store is expected to cost between $5 and $10 per month. 3B is also in talks with software companies about revenue-sharing or licensing the browser for use on other sites. 3B believes the visual aspect of its browser enhances the site content experience by adding the fun and serendipity of window shopping to content consumption.