You must be invited to share on new social network
A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: RIPL Corp. of Seattle.
What: RIPL Corp. of Seattle
Who: Chief Executive Bill Messing
What it does: Establishes a social-networking platform where members selectively share content with other members.
Employees: 7, plus an army of University of Washington product testers
Financing: $1.5 million from angel investors
Why it's different: Users create modules that contain pictures, music, text or a combination that's then made available to all members or specific individuals. This prevents digital faux pas like having your employer find out you are looking elsewhere or having clips of youthful indiscretions falling into the wrong hands.
Not your father's MySpace: While old folks — those over 30 — can participate, the system is designed for 18- to 24-year-olds who are, according to Messing, "extremely vocal about their content-sharing needs."
Three's a crowd: "We are looking a generation beyond MySpace and Facebook, " Messing said. "Sites like MySpace are about profile distribution. YouTube is about content sharing. Instant messaging has immediacy. We combine all three into a single application that supports creativity and self-expression."
Virtual velvet rope: RIPL is an invitation-only system, meaning you need to know someone who is in before you can get in. While this doesn't keep out all of the riff-raff, it will decrease the number of false identities lurking around the network.
Another message: Aside from pictures, text, video and music, RIPL adds advertising as a content category. People will share information about products they like as the system learns who responds to which commercial message. Messing expects that advertisers will develop their own content for the platform.
Beyond the inbox: One ad series that probably won't get passed around on RIPL is the Mac Guy-PC Guy series, as the platform is still Windows-only. At this point, interaction with the Windows desktop is one of its most compelling features: Linked members can provide you with a steady content stream that arrives on the desktop in real time, instead of making you go out and fetch.
The name: Relatively Interesting People Linker? "RIPL is an acronym," Messing said. "But it's a secret and part of the company folklore."
— Charles Bermant