April 11th, 2008
Zloop: Simple social networking for almost anyone
I know. I know. You read the headline and let out an exasperated sigh. Another one? Seriously? But stick with me for a minute or two. Because I honestly think Portland-based Zloop has got something interesting happening.
Zloop helps anyone—and I literally mean anyone—create small social networks. They call them “loops.” And they can be about something extremely limited, like my family, or something larger, like Portland startups. These loops can be created on the fly. And you can belong to as many or as few loops as you like. You can manage multiple profiles, like a personal one, a business one, full details, limited details…
Again, I realize this sounds pretty standard.
But Zloop makes small social network creation so easy that even the ungeekiest person you know could use it. I’m not talking about your coworkers. I’m talking about your parents, your grandparents, your kids. Anyone. It’s like the—and I mean this in only the most positive way possible—the AOL of social network creation.
In fact—like AOL—it, quite simply, may be too easy and seemingly constricted for you to have any interest in it. And that, my friend, is the sheer genius of it.
This isn’t for you and me. You and I can go geek out on Ning or some other existing social network. We can jump on Drupal or slap some Django components together and bang one out. We don’t need simple tools like this.
And that is exactly the point. This is for the other 99.9% of the population. And that’s what I think makes it interesting.
So simple, I’m confused
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brett Meyers, the community evangelist for Zloop, to talk about their solution and where they were hoping to go with it.
“So how do I find new friends via the interface?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Brett replied.
“So, if I want to join a bunch of different groups…”
“You don’t really do that here.”
“Can I get an RSS feed off of this?”
So there I am, sitting there with a confused look on my face. I mean, in terms of Web 2.0 social networking functionality, Zloop wasn’t pushing the envelope. They weren’t even bringing the common, roll-your-own feature set. What they were bringing to the table was, to my Web 2.0 addled brain, boring.
“But… hmm. What about… um,” I said, continuing to struggle.
And that’s when it hit me: some people—arguably the majority of the human race—form “social networks” in an entirely different way than the infinitesimal segment of us Web 2.0-focused geeks do. In real life, it seems, these social networks are actually formed in person.
No, I’m serious.
It seems that there are any number of groups—schools, churches, businesses—where people actually meet and get to know each other in person before they ever think about interacting with one another online.
Weird. But to each his or her own.
And that market—that gigantically broad market—is the group whom Zloop hopes to serve. Or as Brett put it, “We want to provide something that helps strengthen the communities that are already happening in real life.”
Zloop, with their inherent simplicity, their gentle and thoughtful AJAX transitions, and their “just enough” functionality, have some thing very interesting to offer. And that is Zloop’s genius.
And that’s why I think they’ve got something here. Something simple. Something pared down. Something straightforward. Something for a specific use that applies to a very, very large segment of the population.
Is it cutting edge? Absolutely not. Is it entirely unique? Not by a long shot. Does it have a chance? If they play their cards right, I think it does. A very good one.
If you’re interested in trying Zloop, just let me know by—ironically enough—dropping me an email or sending me a message on Twitter. I’d be more than happy to give you access to Zloop and hear your take on it.