I have completed plans for IMConnected and have started showing it off to potential partners or investors (including people at Microsoft).
Have you ever stepped back and considered the sheer number of people you have met in your lifetime: your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, classmates, teachers, etc.? Have you ever thought it was curious the way you have met many of these people? For example, I have a friend Jennie, whom I met through my life-long friend, John. Jennie and I became friends and through Jennie, I met another great friend, Jasmine, who lives in Washington DC. I then introduced Jasmine to all of my friends in Washington DC, spawning new relationships well beyond my immediate control and knowledge. Eventually, Jasmine would meet people I had already known and met through other unique relationships. These new relationships have spawned many new relationships and our “web of friends” grows ever more interesting and complicated by the day. While some people are more conscious of this interesting phenomenon then others, this is something everybody thinks about and is potentially intrigued by. I am about to make this curiosity explicit, via the power of the Internet.
We all know that we live in a small world; there is much truth to that adage. There is even a statistical theory called the “six degrees of separation” describing the phenomenon of a shrinking world where any random two people can discover a link through a chain of six acquaintances. We plan to physically store these relationships in a giant database and output the information for the public in a giant web. We then can map out each individual’s web of friends and see how connected we all are and how small a world this really is.
The way the site will work is as follows. Someone, e.g. Mark, logs on to the site and enters the names and email addresses of his friends and then provides a short explanation of how he met each person and what the nature of their relationship is. Each person Mark includes in his “web” (and there will be a lot) will receive an email from Mark that says he knows them and has written a comment about them on this website. The person receiving this email from Mark will almost surely click through to see what Mark has written about them; the urge will be irresistible. When the new user inevitably becomes a member to see these comments, he or she in turn enters in the names of their friends. Some will probably overlap Mark’s friends, and many will not. As increasingly more people join, we start to develop webs around each individual that we can actually map (imagine a web like structure with your name in the middle, mapping out a degree or two of your relationships – immense but intriguing). Each member of the community (and there will be millions in a short period of time) will have their own page mapping out all their relationships, and listing all the comments from other members who know them and have written about them. We will create a dynamic and interwoven community, allowing members to search for and find other interesting people with whom they may interact.
The community possibilities are endless and exciting. Imagine being able to search for someone from Wisconsin who is “two degrees” separated from you (i.e. you have a common friend, but did not know it yet). Not only do you have something instantly in common with each person you engage to communicate with on the site, but you also would expect to have many people engage you, just because you are who you are and know who you know. This excitement will be easy to carry over into the site, and will create unprecedented momentum and growth of the community.
Update 2004: I was never able to generate an investment to develop IMConnected and at the time I didn’t have the funds to bankroll it myself. Everyone I approaced properly asked “how will it make money?” At the time, the internet advertising market was seemingly close to dead. I always responded that I didn’t really know how it would make money; I just knew it had the potential to be insanely popular and we could figure out how to make money after.
Up until that point, the internet was much about finding people across the world that you really didn’t know. No one was really exploiting the unique real world relationships and networks we all have developed across the course of our lives. Two years later, Friendster and then MySpace launched utilizing the same pioneering idea, today known as “Social Networking.”