Wallop is a social networking service similar to MySpace and Friendster, originally developed by the Microsoft Research Labs. Om Malik and CNet have stories today about the project and Karl Jacob, the entrepreneur who is bringing Wallop to market. From the CNet story;
Wallop is a 12-person start-up that hopes to take on sites like Friendster and MySpace.com by tapping the technology developed by Microsoft's research unit. Wallop has also tapped noted Silicon Valley prototype-shop Frog Design to create the user interface.
The company says the concept developed in Redmond, Wash., will prove far more useful than the current model in which people go around trying to convince people to be their friends.
Wallop is an interesting case study for corporate research, innovation, and the business realities of bringing new products to market inside a $40B company. The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen explains why large established companies do not typically introduce new disruptive technologies. Sometimes the disruptive technology competes with existing products, sometimes the new "disruptive" business model is too much of a cultural shift, and sometimes the new technology is interesting but doesn't naturally fit with any existing business unit.
As often happens with research projects, Microsoft decided not to commercialize the Wallop project and instead offered to license the technology. Microsoft has a new group, Microsoft IP Ventures, established to license LOTS of technology developed by the research labs that for one reason or another will not be commercialized. I encourage you to take a look at the long and growing list of technologies available for license from Microsoft Research.
Wallop is an example of what Microsoft IP Ventures hopes to do with available technology. Microsoft spends over $6B every year on research and development. With all that research there will always be some great stuff that just doesn't fit with our mainstream business. This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to take advantage of billions in research.
Xerox PARC probably spawned more business and generated more revenue than Xerox itself...all for other companies. Apple Computer took the ideas of the GUI and mouse from PARC and developed the MAC. There are lots of other examples. Wallop could be one of the first examples from Microsoft.