Nextdoor.com: a private social network that brings digital and physical space together
- Find a new home for an outgrown bike
- Track down a trustworthy babysitter
- Quickly get the word out about a break-in
- Find out who does the best paint job in town
- Organize a garage sale
- Ask for help keeping an eye out for a lost dog
- Finally call that nice man down the street by his first name.
Nextdoor’s site provides a house-by-house map of neighbors who are members — although members can choose not to have their names attached to their addresses — as well as a forum for posting items of general interest; classified listings for buying, selling or giving away things; and a database for neighbor-recommended local services.
The company, which introduced its service last October, says it has set up more than 2,000 such neighborhoods in the United States, each containing about 500 to 750 households. These mostly follow boundaries defined by Maponics, a supplier of geographic data.
Nextdoor’s interior pages are private, unlike those of some other neighborhood-themed Web sites In a Nextdoor neighborhood, everything, including the directory of members, is visible only to fellow members, so marketers can’t vacuum up names and addresses. Nor does the information appear on search engine results.
To keep out interlopers, Nextdoor requires new members to prove that they actually live at their claimed residences, either by allowing a one-cent transaction to be processed on a credit card tied to the address, by having an existing neighborhood member vouch for their identity, or by other means.
Once their addresses are verified, they can look at the map to see who else has joined. Currently, 20 percent of households in my neighborhood in a San Francisco suburb are Nextdoor members.
Members don’t need to visit the Web site to stay abreast of postings. They can opt to receive posts by e-mail — immediately or in daily digests — or to get a text message in the case of urgent alerts.
THE service is free and, for now at least, carries no advertising. On its frequently-asked-questions page, the company says it plans to enlist local businesses to give members special offers that are unavailable elsewhere. This, the company says, will help “generate support for local businesses, in turn strengthening their own neighborhoods.”
Neighborhood identity has not been destroyed by the Internet. Robert J. Sampson, a sociology professor at Harvard, says: “There’s a common misreading that technology inevitably leads to the decline of the local community. I don’t believe that. Technology can be harnessed to facilitate local interactions.”
Access the entire original publication by Randall Stross here.