June 2, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Here come the 'Family 2.0' sites

Rachel Cook recently had a baby and wanted a place to get advice and connect with other parents on the Web, but she didn't find a lot of good options.

So she did something about it, and co-founded Minti.com, which launched in March. Privately funded and run out of Perth, Australia, Minti is designed to be a Wikipedia of sorts for parenting advice. Its content is user-generated from a community of parents offering tips on everything from potty training to immunization.

Cook is one of a growing number of parent-entrepreneurs who are putting their time and money behind their familial interests and starting a new generation of Web sites for parents and older people--sites that borrow many of the social networking concepts, such as photo-sharing and the wiki, that are found on well-known destinations like MySpace.com and the aforementioned Wikipedia.

Call them "Family 2.0" sites--places for people who may feel a little strange hanging out with the teenybopper set on MySpace. While big family-friendly sites have been around for a long time, few of them have taken advantage of newer Web technologies, even things as widespread as RSS feeds and mapping links.

"It's an underserved market," said Joe Kraus, founder of the Net software company JotSpot, which in May introduced Family Site, family networking software. "It's as if, in the world of cars, all the marketers have been talking about horsepower and engine size, but the whole market was really interested in safety and convenience. (On the Web), we're finally (saying) what people want to hear, like how I use this tool to keep my family in touch."

Since January, nearly a dozen family-networking portals have launched in test version, including Ourstory.com, Zamily.com, Amiglia.com, Families.com, Famoodle.com, Jotspot Family Site, Cingo.com, FamilyRoutes.com and Famundo.com. Even Martha Stewart plans to introduce a similar social network for women to swap recipes and advice.

So what's special about these sites, given that parents have long used online discussion forums or gotten parenting tips from iVillage.com? The answer is that many draw on advanced social-computing technologies like RSS, wikis and mapping to help families do the simplest of things: stay in touch, share photos and calendars, plot the family tree, plan vacations and even vote for next Christmas' main dish.

As is characteristic of other sites that take advantage of social applications, they're also run with user-generated content and few in-house resources.

"There's a greater concept at work here that brings together technology--cheaper storage, better processing power and high-speed connections--with social forces. There's an aging population looking to connect and express themselves," said Peter Kim, senior analyst at research firm Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

That so many familial sites have blessed the Web simultaneously could mean there's a frothy bubble forming around social networking and Web 2.0 technologies. Or it could be that the Web has matured enough to finally draw late-adopters who don't want to geek-out with technology.

The astounding growth of MySpace also has others wanting to carve out a niche of their own in the social networking scene.

"Kids are very savvy about technology and parents need to keep up. This enables parents to be more connected with what's happening with the world," said Cook.

CONTINUED: 'We followed our noses'…
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Family networking around real world communities
There are many sites that specialize in photo sharing, calendaring, family trees, etc. So why would families not just use these sites ?

Family specific sites have to serve a specific purpose - not just be a myspace clone for a different demographic.

SchoolParentNet (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.schoolparentnet.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.schoolparentnet.com/</a>) has taken a unique approach to making family connections around real world communities - enabling social and school specific interaction for parents with PreK-12 children. Parents from across the country have already signed up (300 + schools from 35+ states).
Posted by anspn (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag

You may like to check this post out about your site.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://family2point0.wordpress.com/2006/06/08/schoolparentnet-building-secure-communities-around-our-children/" target="_newWindow">http://family2point0.wordpress.com/2006/06/08/schoolparentnet-building-secure-communities-around-our-children/</a>

Would be great to hear your comments.

Posted by rachelcook (3 comments )
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My own small example
I spent a little bit of my spare time working on a similar concept. It's humble, I know, but it has an interface that I kind of like for families sharing information. Check it out if you're interested: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.familopia.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.familopia.com</a>
Posted by towski (2 comments )
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Hi towski,

I'll check it out.

Talking Tech on Family 2.0
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://family2point0.wordpress.com" target="_newWindow">http://family2point0.wordpress.com</a>
Posted by rachelcook (3 comments )
Link Flag
Great Start
I really like your motto "It Is all about Family". I'd encourage you to link to it on eFamily.com once you've got something you want to expose to the market!
Posted by davidhosei (2 comments )
Link Flag
Another Family site worth mentioning is MyGoodFriends.com
It's got messaging and profiles like Myspace but it's deffinitely a
family-friendly site. You can pick little buttons for things you
support like cancer research, recycling, political parties, etc that
show up on your profile. Also on your profile there's areas where
you can write about yourself, your family, and your pets. The thing
I like the best is the family page. Only my family can view it. I put a
link to my son's oboe recital music which was awesome because my
family who couldn't make it, still got to hear him play.
Posted by corsa180 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MyGoodFriends.com is a great site
I'm also a member on MyGoodFriends.com and I love the site. I created a profile that was unique to who I am. I can connect with all my friends and family that I hardly ever get to see and I never worry about the safety of the site. My family members put up pictures of themselves and their kids so I can see what every one is up to and I feel involved in their lives. MyGoodFriends.com is such a great social network for me and my family.
Posted by nicole289 (1 comment )
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Great I'll check it out for a profile on Talking Tech on Family 2.0

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://family2point0.wordpress.com" target="_newWindow">http://family2point0.wordpress.com</a>

Posted by rachelcook (3 comments )
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Friends For Families
Here's another new site for families. It's designed to help families connect with other families in their local areas. The site is trying to do for families what the online dating sites have done for singles.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.FriendsForFamilies.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.FriendsForFamilies.com</a>
Posted by jpmcauley (2 comments )
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Family social networks mature

More family social networking sites have popped up since this article. Check out Famiva (famiva.com). We built this site to offer the most complete integrated family network. But don't take our word for it. Be your own judge and try it out. It's free.

- Zak
Posted by zakmandhro (1 comment )
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Follow-up To Your Story?
This was an excellent article. Now, 1 year later a few more players have emerged and millions of dollars have been invested (e.g., efamily.com, geni.com, etc...) Additionally, I think it could be useful to the space to have a panel where all of us get together. I know Clay and Rachel are in the Valley now and most of the sites are based on the west coast. My wife and I would be happy to take a trip out there if we can get some good people on the panel (e.g., Disney's - Family.com, Minti.com, Mayasmom.com, Geni.com and eFamily.com -- possibly Generations Network Rep.).

I'll shoot a note over to Paul Allen (the lesser) at World Vital to see if he can get some of his contacts to make it happen.

Nevertheless, I'd love to see a follow-up on your article.

All the best,

David Hosei
Associate at International Web Properties (eFamily.com)
Posted by davidhosei (2 comments )
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Here's a fun family site for the holidays.

Posted by bgolson (1 comment )
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If you?re traveling with kids, you might want to check out the recently launched beta of trekaroo at http://www.trekaroo.com. It?s a community of families that share reviews on kid-friendly activities, hotels, and vacation rentals. It also has a forum that is tied into the activities, reviews, and places so that you can ask specific questions about traveling with kids. Would love any feedback you might have. It's a work in progress. http://www.trekaroo.com
Posted by bpang (3 comments )
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