Commentary

New Social Nets for Your Brain

There’s some good news for all those people who complain that social media encourages people to traffic in superficial, trivial nonsense, as a new generation of social networks are focusing on encouraging intellectual and creative endeavors.

The most abstract (and frankly interesting) of the new social networks is NewHive, a social publishing platform which presents users with a blank page and invites them to create anything they want using still images, animation, GIFs, video, music, and other kinds of online multimedia. NewHive provides users with all kinds of creative tools and elements through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that enables them to create, well, again, anything they want -- graphic art, movies, text pieces, whatever. A lot of it I would definitely characterize as “art,” but there are also posts that look more simply self-reflective, whimsical, or observational.

As for the business model, NewHive eschews advertising and plans to make money from e-commerce, according to cofounder Zach Verdin, who wrote a post on the site explaining: “We want the people who use NewHive to own their data. Instead of selling their information, we choose, instead, to make money through the tools we’ve built and what people choose to do with them. We believe in the power of our tools, as well as the artists we invest in--and that they make things that people will want to buy. That is how we plan to make money.”

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Next up is Niume, a social network based on shared interests, which encourages users to connect through “circles” centered on things they care about. While that can mean anything, so far Niume users have shown a proclivity for aesthetic pursuits like art and photography. One selling point for Niume is that it pushes new user-generated content to other people in their circles, rather than passive posting, which leaves the creator waiting for other people to see and respond. The network’s login is integrated with Facebook and Google+, and users can choose to automatically content to Facebook timelines.

More prosaically (but perhaps usefully) there’s Brainly, a social network that exists to help you with your homework. Like other online knowledge bases, Brainly encourages users to ask and answer questions, but with a particular focus on the kinds of questions one most commonly encounters on homework -- e.g., “what are the six simple machines?” Brainly just raised $9 million in new funding, having previously raised $500,000 in funding in 2012. Currently the site claims to have 30 million unique visitors per month.

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