Forget "Friends" and "Contacts," Nextdoor Is the Social Network for Neighbors

By Nathaniel Mott , written on July 2, 2012

From The News Desk

Do you know your neighbors – and the rest of the 'hood – as well as you would like? If you're in the 26 percent of people that don't know their neighbor's names, the answer is probably "No."

Nextdoor, a social network for your neighborhood, wants to help solve that problem. By creating a free, neighborhood-based social network that places privacy and community above all else, Nextdoor might just be the latest social network that's actually worth joining.  If Facebook is meant for family and friends, Twitter for celebrities and "Internet friends," and LinkedIn for the professional network, Nextdoor is meant for the people that call your neighborhood home.

The company is currently growing organically, growing to over 3,000 neighborhoods while avoiding the typical "Share this with your network!" tactic that helps so many startups gain early adopters. (Though, one can question whether those are the type of people Nextdoor should be trying to woo in the first place). One has to know about Nextdoor or specifically search for a "neighborhood social network" to find the site, and the sign-up process, which requires that users verify their address, feels like it was designed to deter people from signing up for the service.

Backed by Shasta Ventures, Benchmark Capital, and "a number of angel investors," Nextdoor is currently working on expanding its product and isn't overly concerned by the revenue issue. Local advertisements may appear on the site some time in the future, but Nextdoor has to toe a fine line between privacy concerns and, you know, making money as it introduces ads.

The current plan is to partner with small businesses in the neighborhood to offer exclusive deals to Nextdoor members. If that sounds familiarwell, that's because the idea isn't particularly ground-breaking. Normally I'd be bearish on the chances of another daily deals site gaining traction – I think we all know how well those companies tend to perform – Nextdoor's focus on smaller businesses and the trust it earns by not selling data to larger advertisers may help the company succeed where others have failed.

Dave Morin, founder and CEO of Path, took a macro approach to comparing social networks. "If Facebook has focused on building the city," he says, "Path is focusing on building the dinner table." Nextdoor nestles itself between those two networks perfectly, striking a balance between "Every single person I've ever met" and "These are the people that I'm emotionally attached to."

As someone that's moved to a new town, I know the difficulties of assimilating with the existing community. Even small towns, famous for their willingness to accept strangers with an apple pie in one hand and a lasagna in another (Note: this stereotype is 100 percent false) present their own difficulties. It took years for my family – and other families that moved to the neighborhood – to feel like they were a part of the community. A tool like Nextdoor would have helped tremendously. Joining the local Nextdoor network doesn't meant that you're best buddies with the entire neighborhood, but if you want to learn more about the town and your neighbors Nextdoor provides a low-friction method of doing so.

Last week a tropical storm – the innocently named Debby – swept through Florida on its way up the East Coast. Nextdoor users turned to the service to warn their neighbors about flood levels and the current conditions in their neighborhood, creating a layman's weather alert system that helped users navigate the high-speed winds and rising waters. This would have been possible via Facebook or phone, but Nextdoor was the go-to place for users to communicate with their entire neighborhood at once.

Below is an infographic from the company explaining its raison d'être and how people use the service.



[Image Credit: Neil Gaiman]