City Chatter Wants You To Type to Your Neighbors

By Andrew James , written on July 26, 2012

From The News Desk

City Chatter wants you to socialize with people around you. The location-based program seeks to set you up in a chatroom with others close by your location – or you can switch it up to see what's happening in other areas of your city. Phil Sphilberg noticed the problem a year ago while out to dinner in New York City. Looking around, he noticed that everyone in the restaurant was staring at their smartphones, but no one was interacting. He realized that the experience was simply anti-social.

“Check-in shouldn’t be the end goal,” says Shpilberg, “What I wanted to do was check profiles and then start chatting.”

Out of that experience, Shpilberg spent the last year developing City Chatter, a program that aims to socialize localized groups. He and his team ran several focus groups with his app. At first, he believed it would be ideal to just have localized venues, but eventually realized through the tests that people want to interact with users in a slightly larger district.

City Chatter is more like a IM client, but it also allows you to look at profiles and then decide whether or not to chat with them. The focus groups found that, for the most part, people under 30 years old "get it quickly" and are social on City Chatter. But users above that mark are less comfortable and have a hard time understanding why someone would interact with app.

The program is not unlike Nextdoor, an app that aims to introduce you to your neighbors. Clearly investors see a market with potential, as Nextdoor just raised $18.6 million from Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Greylock Partners, and Shasta Ventures. The difference is Nextdoor hopes to pair locations with group buying discounts in a low-friction chat program. City Chatter hopes to foster the actual chatter between individuals.

The interface is nice, and shows that they've spent some time whittling it down to its current state. Shpilberg mentioned he's not concerned whether or not people end up taking their conversations offline, the aim of City Chatter is simply to get people talking and socializing.

It may take some time to pick up since it just launched this morning, and for the most part the local area is relatively empty. For instance, it’s just me and Ian in the Mission District, and he's only here for food. He won't even reply to me... Ian, you're being rude. Say something Ian, just so I know you're okay.