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Facebook is expected to announce Wednesday that it has crossed the 500-million user mark. Rival social network Hi5, with just 40 million users of its social network, is puny by comparison. But Alex St. John, president and chief technology officer of Hi5, tried his hardest tonight to upstage his gigantic rival just before its big occasion.
Tuesday night, in a dojo in a bar at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, St. John stripped down to his underwear (a sumo wrestling belt known as a mawashi) and wrestled a 350-pound, three-time sumo wrestling champion. St. John got thrown to the floor twice by the much larger man, as you can see in the video below. But St. John managed to toss his bigger rival out of the ring on his third try.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, better be on his guard. Clearly, St. John will do anything — talk the loudest, crack the most jokes, or pull the wackiest stunts — just to steal a little attention for Hi5, which is at the show trying to recruit game developers to its social network.
St. John argues that Hi5, which just raised $14 million in venture capital, has the chutzpah and focus to treat game developers properly and help their games spread in a viral fashion. By painting Facebook as an uncaring giant, Hi5 is doing what it can to call attention to the downside of being part of a giant social network. In March, Hi5 announced a game developer program. Today, the emphasize the point, Hi5 launched a portal web site for its game developers.
Perhaps Hi5 and its cigar-chomping president doesn’t stand a chance. You could reasonably expect that St. John is going to get squashed as he tries to take on the 800-pound gorilla. But it is certainly succeeding in making the social game business more entertaining and taking its marketing gimmicks to places where Facebook won’t go. In that way, the company reminds me of the loud-mouthed Scott McNealy and his one-time upstart server company Sun Microsystems, now owned by Oracle. McNealy knew that he didn’t have the dollars to spend on marketing or advertising, so he had to use his witty remarks and antics to get attention. You have to hand it to St. John. He will do anything to help his company, as you can see below. The second video from Hi5 provides the “back story” for the sumo wrestling match.