You might think the world already has enough social networks, and you might be right about that, but it’s not stopping hopefuls from entering the arena with new social platforms devoted to this, that, and the other. So I figured it was time for a roundup of some -- just some -- of the new offerings out there. In no particular order…
First up is SocialRadar, a mobile app which mashes up social media data and mobile location data to tell you who’s around you. The big idea: “Imagine walking into a room and already knowing the people around you and how you are connected to them.” Founded by Michael Chasen, who cofounded Blackboard, SocialRadar is still in development but should eventually be available for iPhone, Android, and Google Glass. On June 19 SocialRadar announced it has raised $12.75 million in Series A funding from investors led by New Enterprise Associates, Grotech Ventures and SWaN & Legend Ventures.
Next there’s Bunch, a Canadian startup whose technology allows people to form groups devoted to specific topics and passions, replacing online forums and discussion boards with a more accessible, flexible, and interactive platform. The company began beta testing in September 2012 and has attracted 20,000 members so far. It also recently raised $1 million in venture capital from investors including Real Ventures, 500 Startups, BDC Venture Capital, and Round 13 Capital.
It makes sense that social media can be used to advance social causes, and that’s the idea behind the SmartWoman Project, a mobile social network that was unveiled at the U.N. this week and is scheduled to become available via iTunes in September. The network aims to bring women around the world together by having relatively affluent women from the developed world pay a $5 monthly fee, which will cover the costs for mobile access for women from the developing world. The app will then deliver messages on topics like health and business to help them improve their lives, while women in the developing world get access to the network, discussion forums, and custom content on health, lifestyle and relationships from celebrities like Shakira.
Gay men are big users of social media, which explains the rise of Hornet, a new mobile social network founded in January 2012 to compete, with apparent success, with incumbent gay mobile social network Grindr. Hornet has zoomed from 150,000 users a few months after its launch to one million users today, compared to Grindr’s six million. Despite its somewhat suggestive name, Hornet positions itself as a less risqué social forum for gay men to meet each other. The app is available for iPhone and Android, and Hornet is planning to launch an iPad app in the near future.
There’s also a wave of new social networks tapping into many social media users’ desire for more intimate connections with a smaller group of real friends (as opposed to your 50,000 closest friends on Facebook). Towards that end Mark McGuire, a tech entrepreneur in Madison, WI, has launched Nextt, whose mission is to simplify planning for real-world activities to “help friends do more together in the real world so they can find the balance between being digitally connected and truly connecting,” according to McGuire. The company recently announced that is has raised $700,000 in seed funding.
Then there’s The Happy Channel, which is just what sounds like: a social network devoted to upbeat, positive messages as a counterbalance to all the bad news in the world. Founded by “spiritual teacher” Lisa Eve, The Happy Channel has many of the same features as other social networks, allowing users to update their status, upload pictures, share videos, add friends, create groups, and organize events. The key difference is that negative posts will be immediately deleted by The Happy Channel’s team of Web monitors, which frankly gives it a slightly creepy, authoritarian vibe.
Finally, if sharing and caring isn’t your thing, you might want to check out the “anti-social network,” Hell Is Other People, a sort of inverse Foursquare which tells you where your contacts on Foursquare are -- so you can avoid them. As indicated by the name, taken from a line from the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, the app is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it functions exactly as promised. If you happen to agree with Sartre -- and we all probably feel that way occasionally -- it might just come in handy.