Meetup, the popular events management service will be undergoing several large changes in the next few weeks. According to an entry posted to the company's official blog last night, users new and old were watched while using the site to help restructure the design and layout.
Screenshots have been posted showing a new look, which is possibly a little less important than the announcement of a developer API that's launching alongside it. Developers will be able to tap into a limited amount of the data found on the site for use in third-party sites and tools. Personal information from members is not making the cut.
Also new is an updated payment system that will be provided to social organizers who need better ways to manage events with a price tag. Meetup currently has PayPal, but the new tool will integrate Amazon Payments--a PayPal and Google Checkout competitor that launched late last year. What's smart is that the new system lets event planners set it up so that people who want to RSVP "yes" are required to pay up front. As a host, they can also refund everyone at once if an event is canceled or the funds are no longer required.
To help people plan where they should have events, the service is also adding a new location finder called "Places" that lists locations where Meetup events have been held in the past, alongside a user-maintained rating system. With enough use, this system could help weed out potentially bad places where newbie event holders might try to book without knowing any better. It's something that's made Yelp quite popular with restaurants and hotels, and this is a nice vertical for a community that thrives on where events are being held.
Meetup sits in a space that's been shaken up a little in the last few years. Newcomers like MyPunchBowl and Facebook's own events service have given people easy ways to create some of the more simple get-togethers using lists of contacts from other services or their core groups of friends. Competitor Yelp has also thrown its hat in the ring with an events service that's a smart pickup on user bases and their penchant for leaving the house and spending money. One remedy for this is getting places where competitors aren't. In the case of Meetup, it's attempting to spread internationally, starting with the markets where it's being used the most--like Italy. Others will follow, but will it be enough to crush some of the big boys?