Social Networking Stretches its Reach
New York-based Dodgeball.com this week unveiled a beta version of a service that merges social networking with mobile phone text-messaging, so friends can discover each others whereabouts.
And social networking service ItsNotWhatYouKnow.com LLC next week plans to release a preview of its revamped and renamed social networking service, which includes the addition of Web conferencing.
Both companies are much smaller than the big names in social networking, such as Friendster Inc., LinkedIn Ltd., Tribe Networks Inc. and even Google Inc.s Orkut, but their new approaches point to a push to make social networking a feature of broader technologies.
Dodgeball.coms new service, called dodgeball.social, in fact grew out of a New York University masters thesis project by company founder Dennis Crowley. Dodgeball.com started in 2000 as city guide based on user-contributed content. It expanded to include other services such as dodgeball.circles, where members could create mobile buddy lists and send mass text messages to friends.
The free dodgeball.social service, launched Monday in beta for New York members, goes a step further. Members create a profile and invite other friends to join their network, similar to Friendster and other consumer social-networking services. When members are out on the town or want others to know their location, they can send a text message to the service through their mobile phones about their geographic location, such as "@Luna Lounge."
The service matches the location in its database of geo-coded information, triggering the sending of a text message to friends and acquaintances in a members network who are located within 10 blocks of the member, Crowley said. The service limits connections to two degrees of separation.
"It seems like the next logical step, to take social networks and apply a mobile piece on top," he said. "Im surprised people havent caught onto it sooner."
Dodgeball.com is working to add more management functionality, so members can distinguish which friends and acquaintances would receive location notifications, Crowley said. He also hopes to expand to the other four Dodgeball.com citiesBoston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphiain coming weeks.
Meanwhile, ItsNotWhatYouKnow separately plans to launch a preview Monday of Version 3 of its social-networking service. The company is renaming the service Knowmentum and adding Web conferencing, among other new features, said Steve Richards, the Indianapolis companys vice president of business development.
The services Web conferencing feature, called Knowmentum Live, will include voice over IP (VOIP), presentation sharing, co-browsing of Web sites, surveys and chat.
Along with giving members a way of holding an ad hoc online meeting with others in their network of contacts, Web conferencing also will be used to help drive more members to the service and build new connections for members, Richards said. Participants in a Web conference, for example, will be able to access each others member profiles. ItsNotWhatYouKnow also plans to hold its own live online events.
The addition of Web conferencing is part of ItsNotWhatYouKnows push to develop more business-oriented features for social networking. The company also is adding the ability for businesses and associations to create private social-networking groups within the overall service, Richards said.
"Weve realized that the novelty of six degrees of separation on the Internet is just that, and its a novelty that will be a normal piece of Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes," Richards said. "So, what are we going to do to differentiate ourselves?"
The full release of the renamed version should be out May 1. While joining the social-networking service is free, the Web conferencing and private-group features will be available for a fee, Richards said.
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