For some time, the once-popular social web site dedicated to collecting and sharing web icons has been languishing in a state of limbo. In it’s heyday, it boasted a huge amount of interest, and more activity than it’s servers could handle. New sets of icons to trade and download were released weekly, at the very least. It offered increased service for a monthly fee, giving users 3 times the in-game currency to buy new icon sets than free users received. Sometimes, even that wasn’t enough to keep up with the flood of icons.

It had many great parts, too. The icons produced by Firewheel Design were high quality, free to use for private or commercial use, and ranged from Holiday themed Pumpkin or Turkey sets, to the whimsical Ninja/Sushi combination. Interest was high, and the site was even generating a little money. Exactly how much it was bringing in is unknown, but it wasn’t nothing.

However, IconBuffet was always a side project for Firewheel design. It was a fun diversion from the daily monotony of client work. At some point, the folks at FW realized that they could actually make money off of casual web gaming. They decided to create a new game, called Packrat.

Packrat is a game built on Facebook’s application platform, and designed much like Iconbuffet. Users trade, steal, and buy new collectable cards using in-game currency, and when they have the right number of cards, they can save them forever in their Vault. Like IconBuffet, Packrat revolves around collecting icons created by FireWheel.

The massive success of Packrat and the income generated by Facebook’s ad revenue sharing setup [Not true, apparently. -dave] essentially killed the Iconbuffet community. Before Packrat, Iconbuffet was releasing a minimum of 4 new iconsets a month, and sometimes as much as 10. Since Packrat launched, Iconbuffet has been lucky to see two new sets in a month, and a new set hasn’t been released for two months at the time of writing.

Part of this is due to changing priorities within the FireWheel team, but part of is is due to the fact that the FireWheel company no longer exists. Shortly before the launch of Packrat, Firewheel stopped accepting new client work, and then completely closed it’s doors. A new company arrived in it’s place, with the same people working on things, but with a new leader behind the wheel but with a new focus. This new company, called Alamofire, has totally abandoned Iconbuffet.

Shortly before closing shop, Firewheel brought in a new team member, named Scott Raymond (who goes by sco online). The Alamofire site now lists Scott Raymond as CEO of Alamofire. It seems likely that Firewheel brought sco in to help with some of the technical aspects behind IconBuffet and Packrat, and then sco convinced FireWheel to close up shop and reform as AlamoFire, with him conveniently at the helm. Once in place, he redirected the efforts of the company to more profitable assets.

Seems I made a mistake here, Scott is not the Alamofire CEO. That’s Josh Williams. I’m not sure where I got Scott from. -dave

Another possible explination is that FireWheel did not sell all of it’s properties to AlamoFire, and that IconBuffet remains a FireWheel enterprise, but the old developers of IconBuffet simply don’t have the time or resources necessary to continue IconBuffet as it once was.

Whatever the explanation, the developers of IB missed a huge potential cross marketing opportunity by neglecting IconBuffet. Icons they had developed for Packrat could easily be distributed through IconBuffet. According to iconmaster, this would not work. I still believe it could, but I’d like to know why, specifically, it wouldn’t. I know that IB icons are specially crafted to look great at small sizes, but why limit IB to just those little guys? -dave Encouraging users of Packrat to come over to IB and collect the iconsets would give IB a huge potential for growth. For those that would say that’s impossible to do because of copyright, icons for IB could easily be resized to a smaller size than is used on Packrat. Packrat features large, beautiful artwork, and a smaller size on IB would not diminish PR’s copyrights.

Also, many users of the IB community have stepped forward and offered to help FW develop and nurture IB. All would take to resurrect IB is one or two developers who were visible and involved in the site. The community and user base is already there. Even a regular release of iconsets again would revitalize the community.

IB is dead, but it’s not beyond saving. The lesson here is don’t neglect a social/community site. That’s the quickest way to kill it.

Also, I’ve just learned that Blinksale, a quite popular application for creating and sending invoices that was also created by the FireWheel folks, has succumb to the same fate as IB. The last action on Blinksale was just about a year ago. That’s two quality applications that Packrat killed.