FatDoor Crawls the Web for Neighbor Info
Whenever a new man moves into my community, one of the mothers in my neighborhood immediately searches the Megan’s List database, which is dedicated to ID’ing sex offenders.
A new site, FatDoor, however, hopes to look on the brighter side of having new neighbors. The start-up crawls the Web for publicly available info (college, job, church, clubs, blogs) and is being designed to help neighbors establish commonalities from the get-go, rather than sitting in the isolated silos of today’s typical “Bowling Alone” neighborhood.
The site’s motto is “positive social change.” The company hopes that it will help the “neighborhood get stronger, help people develop friendships in their neighborhoods, and become more civic in their involvement in their communities.” It may also be used for more annoying things (telemarketing, real estate pitches, etc.) But the site has taken pains to hire a privacy expert to minimize the inherent risks. If it works at all, one imagines it could be a nice complement to something like Zillow, and more dimensional.
Site founder Raj Abhyanker, a patent attorney and erstwhile local politician, has been making the rounds in the local space he was a sponsor at our Local ’07 show. Last week, he posted launch news about the site on Wikipedia (although the post was taken down).
While it was up, the Wikipedia post noted that FatDoor will create a virtual city government where “the mayor” is selected based on a reputation system (i.e., number of connections, number of positive points). Runners-up will be selected to a virtual city council. “In a later phase, we’ll have voting for a Governor of each U.S. state on FatDoor, and a President of the United States on FatDoor (e.g., based on links with residents in the United States),” writes Abhyanker.
I haven’t seen the site. I like the name but need to know more about the virtual city council concept and potential privacy issues. But one imagines there are unique, compelling technologies associated with it. Abhyanker has filed for more than 42 patents based on various geospatial tools and technologies.
Certainly, there is some heavyweight talent associated with the site. Cofounder Chandu Thota was the lead developer of Microsoft Virtual Earth. An early advisor was Sanjeev Agrawal, who runs marketing for Tellme.
A private iteration of the site launched April 12 in Cupertino, near San Jose. It will be made available to all Cupertino residents in early May, and the site will go wide May 29 to coincide with O’Reilly’s Where conference in San Jose. It expects to have 130 million people and business profiles at launch.
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I’m sorry, but this really irritates me… FatDoor is pure conjecture at this point. Do they have a community up and running? No. Can you even see their site? No. What does the product "really" do…?
I’ve seen at least three posts about these guys in the last couple days, and I know it because they have a booth at the Web 2.0 Expo right now. Here’s what David Spark of sparkminute.com thinks of them (he was actually there):
"There is nothing more pathetic than seeing a booth set up with no demo or a crippled demo. The "not being prepared" title goes to FatDoor. They had computers set up in their booth showing their homepage that just said, "Launching Soon." Click the link and you'll see. When I asked the rep what Fatdoor was he just said, "Community around location," but he had nothing to show. Yet for some reason he was all excited. Yes, because he's seen it. I haven't. Show me a mockup or something."
The reason I’m so annoyed is that I’ve been trying desperately to get coverage on the new startup eNeighbors.com (which I am part of) because it actually has a product online. You can see it. It works. It keeps info private, AND about a dozen communities are already paying to use it. To top it off, it’s only been available for 6 weeks.
It’s like a high-school popularity contest all over again. The "kool" kids will always rule.