Know Thy Neighbor Nextdoor

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Every conceivable kind of content that we consume on the internet today comes with explicit social networking markers.

Today with over 1000 Social Networking sites known to exist globally and 16 virtual communities with more than 100 million active users to date, Social Networks/ Virtual Communities have truly changed us and as also our definition of SELF(!). For most of the activities that we partake in our daily life like work, sports, hobbies, shopping, travel, dine, drive, and the list goes on, there is a virtual community / social network for each if it.

Now a social network built exclusively for local neighborhoods – called NextDoor is in the news for stepping into the elite territory of start ups.  On NextDoor.Com, each neighborhood is a closed social network where users have to verify their real name and address to gain membership. Once we are in, the idea is to be able to connect with our neighbors, strike conversations, while finding out everything from local deals, finding nearby help or even be alerted of neighborhood crime.

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(Image Source)

Developed on the insight that The Neighborhood has always been one of the “original social networks”, it has recently raised $60m fundraising led by John Doerr, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers partner who led the IPOs of the likes of Amazon and Netscape and Tiger Global Management – prominent VC firms. (source)

This latest round of fund raising values the company at nearly $ 500 m as NextDoor.Com is slated to expand to more than the currently listed US neighborhoods on its site. Nirav Tolia, co-founder and CEO of Nextdoor, says there was already “incredible demand” abroad and goes on to say..

 “We see this whole notion of building safer and stronger communities is not an American thing at all, it is something all people share”.  

What I really like about the idea of a Neighborhood focused Social Network is the degree of relevance that can finally be attributed to the potential ads that can be placed in the network and the ways in which it can benefit all the players in the equation:

  • The Advertiser: Businesses in the locality can micro target the ‘captive’ user base in the neighborhood via their ads while also nurturing a local community of customers on an ongoing basis. The biggest opportunity here is for the SMBs.
  • The User: A user can find the most relevant offers from around her apartment rather than get bombarded by offers from across the country if not the world!
  • The Publisher: The publisher can facilitate the precious need of SMBs in the locality to micro target and reach out to their customer base in a very cost effective way, while also being able to track and optimize listings on a real time basis.

It’s almost like combining the best parts of Yelp, Craigslist, Foursquare, Path and Facebook with a liberal dash of a local flavor.  Like any other virtual community while it does come with its own privacy related nuances that need to be managed if it were to thrive across localities for the long term, one thing is nearly certain ..

We can finally get to know our neighbor. Albeit at least through the window of our screen.

PS: Two interesting things that you might want to check out:

  1.  To celebrate the ‘most neighborly holiday of the year’, Nextdoor launched just in time for this Halloween, a Treat Map to give you an insider’s guide to the best streets for treats in our neighborhood (relevant mostly to the US as of now)
  2. Funnily, Nextdoor has a page on Facebook 🙂

Technology: Catching up with Human Behavior

What is the most expensive piece of real estate in the world?

Many know that it is – arguably – the white space on the Google home page. Obviously it was a user interface design principle laid out by the founders of Google to keep its interface as clean and simple as possible. We know that it is user centered design at work. The fonts, colors, sizes, layout and design of every single element on every single page of Google are known to be ideated, brainstormed, prototyped, tested, validated, fine tuned and refined before finally dishing it out to the end user. The objective: to facilitate the user’s interaction and her journey of finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself.

  • That’s what has made Facebook dramatically redesign its interface – The Timeline
  • That’s what makes Twitter roll out changes/improvements in its interface on a continuous basis
  • That’s what makes Apple.com to be consistently ranked as the Best Designed Website in the world
  • That’s what stokes the passion flames in Mac fanatics and equally…
  • That’s what is creating great levels of anticipation for the next iteration of Microsoft Windows as it is slated to be a game changing redesign of its UI to what is called as the Metro interface.

That’s all good and inspiring. But if we take a step back and ask ourselves why is this so pertinent to the current world order, the answer could be simple. Information.

Simplistically put, computers, web portals, websites, web browsers and Operating Systems are nothing but our interfaces for information consumption, data processing and finally content creation. Given that the information that is becoming available online is growing by leaps and bounds by every passing second, it is but natural that user interface design takes utmost precedence. The goal: Facilitate information consumption to be as intuitive as possible.

What further complicates the access and consumption of this boundless information is this word called ‘social’. Given that information is increasingly taking social attributes and contexts of time and space (almost in real time) the complexity of information retrieval has seemingly multiplied over night. Hence the goal now is not just to make information consumption as intuitive as possible, but also as instinctive as possible.

For e.g. if you want to search for restaurants in a new town, you naturally Google for it, pick some names from the search results, read their reviews on Yelp and then choose one that looks promising for your needs and budget. Of course search engines are now dishing out the search results in such a way that all these activities can be collapsed to one single search action. That could be intuitive design at work.

Now comes the interesting part. What if you know of a friend who lives in that town or who had visited that town recently? Naturally you would give her a buzz and take her recommendations and bingo your search is complete! It is instinctive of us to seek out references/ advice / suggestions to many things that we search for from the people that we know and trust. That’s how we fundamentally seek out information.

Sounds very natural isn’t it? Only, our online search experience has been antithetical to this very social attribute that we humans are instinctively used to. Not any more, the guys at Microsoft seem to say. See the video here.

In what looks like a paradigm shift in search, Bing has announced today that it is soon going to make search socially relevant to you like never before. Read the full story on this post on Bing’s blog.

This has many interesting ramifications.

  1. Everyone is now a key influencer: If I like Nikon on my Facebook page, a friend of mine searching for this brand on Bing could potentially get to know of my affiliation to this brand and can thereby start a conversation with me. And given that I already ‘like’ Nikon, chances that I would recommend this brand to her are high.
  2. Marketing on Facebook can now become even more challenging (and expensive): Facebook ‘Likes’ can become much more valuable than they are now and could even be monetized a la AdWords
  3. Online Privacy: Online privacy is slated to become even more complex and interesting as Social Networks evolve into these bigger entities
  4. Trust, Connection and Attention as the core assets of ‘connection economy’ can be radially redefined (for good or for worse)
  5. Mashup: This could open up very interesting possibilities of mashing up info from geo tagged sources, social networks, along with conventional web pages to make search results even more relevant and contextual in terms of time, space and connections.
Facebook is known to quote often that “Technology is now catching up with human behavior”. And today they seemed to have proven this again with Microsoft.
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