Citizen media start-up AllVoices, a global community that lets users contribute news and commentary by cell phone or online, moves from beta to the public newsroom on Thursday.
"My goal is to create the first true people's media company, where 6 billion people on the planet can share their news from wherever they are," said Amra Tareen, founder of San Francisco-based AllVoices.
The overshadowing feature on the AllVoices site is a world map that shows red, clickable dots on the location of an "event," as AllVoices calls a news report. The map allows users to see what's going on, for instance, in a particular region, country, or city. Visitors can also search for news by type: politics, business, conflict and tragedy, science and technology, sports, and entertainment.
And they can search on people. Clicking on a person's name yields a short biography of him or her, a link to a Wikipedia entry, and related content on the Web, such as articles, blog posts, videos, photos, and public comments. Users can share news, images, videos, and opinions from their cell phone via SMS or MMS, or go to the Web site itself.
AllVoices ranks news events based on the activity they are generating on the Web at large.
Tareen said AllVoices' technological platform is based on a set of patent-pending algorithms and utilizes more than 3,500 mainstream feeds in English. As a comparison, Google News includes articles from more than 10,000 news sources in 20 languages; 4,500 of those sources are in English.
But AllVoices differs in some ways. When clicking on a story in Google News, the aggregator will direct you to the original source. In AllVoices, users can read the initial 250 characters of the piece before having to click through, plus all the related content.
Another feature in AllVoices is the "filter by news source," which allows readers to view stories from the news media in a specific country, neighboring countries, or region, or get a global news perspective.
Founder Tareen is a 39-year-old former venture capitalist at Sevin Rosen Funds, where she invested in IT and telecom. She holds an undergraduate degree in electronics and computer science engineering from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and an MBA from Harvard.
She incorporated the company in April 2007 and raised $4.5 million in a series A round of funding from VantagePoint Venture Partners.
Tareen got the idea for AllVoices when she traveled to Pakistan to volunteer after a massive earthquake rocked the country in 2005. She wanted to share her impressions of the devastation and lacked a platform.
Besides, being a native of Pakistan, Tareen was startled by some people's perception of the United States, where she has lived for 10 years. "They thought that the U.S was against the entire Muslim world," she said.
On her AllVoices profile page, Tareen describes herself as "a mom who is concerned about the world and wants to get the people in the world to talk to each other to resolve issues."