My first run-in with Spymac was a completely accidental encounter a few years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a site that had its own visual style and appeal. It pulled in some design cues from Apple but kept its own sense of personality. This week Spymac has relaunched itself as Leapfrog, a portal for user-generated media.
The old Spymac featured a variety of user services, including e-mail, blogs, and user forums. It was a community-driven site. The new Spymac Leapfrog is all about media. Think YouTube with Google's pastel color palete. Users can browse popular videos, pictures, and music, all through a Flash-based player. Like Viddler, which we covered last month, Spymac lets you plug in your Webcam to record and share your own videos. There's even a revenue-sharing model for user-generated content, similar to Revver.
What's strange to see is that a few of the old Spymac features haven't weathered the transition. The older version of Spymac is now referred to as "Spymac Classic." Services like e-mail, forums, and blogs take you back to the classic version. Likewise, clicking on "galleries" in the classic Spymac pages transports you to the new front page. The two sections feel like completely different sites.
When I look at the evolution of Spymac, I wonder about the rationale. In many ways, it appears they're trying to compete with YouTube and other Flash-video hosting services on a design level. What puzzles me is why they'd completely revamp Spymac to be such a non-Mac site. If anything, I would like to see them focus on integrating the rest of their niche Mac community services to give the site a more cohesive feel in a manner that competitors like YouTube and MySpace haven't been able to accomplish.