CreateMyNet takes on business networking

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CreateMyNet is a social networking site aimed at small businesses, professional associations, trade associations and individuals. It’s currently in Alpha testing and the public Beta is – according to a press statement in October – due out this week.

With the permission of its owners, TechCrunch UK secured a look at the Alpha version, and it is still very much in the early stages. But then again social networks are like that, right? Not much exists in the way of a network until people start to join, and to be fair they haven’t even launched yet. What can be said is that the Alpha site looks like a fairly standard PHP-driven community site.

The problem is, it is hard to see what CreateMyNet can offer over and above what LinkedIn, Xing (formerly Openbc.com and about to relaunch), SoFlow.com and every other networking community aimed at business people offers. But their PR lays out quite an ambitious project…

They plan to list the UK’s associations and professional bodies – giving them control over their CreateMyNet incarnation- while allowing users to create new communities of their own.

That’s not all. The site also plans to include an RSS reader, secure file storage, web conferencing, video messaging, calendaring, PC synchronisation, a marketplace, instant messaging and SMS. Most services will be free, while some will attract a low subscription, they say.

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All this will apparently be wrapped in encryption, turning the site into an “online desktop” (their quotes) which “centralises information management by providing contact management, task management and multiple levels of event and calendar management.”

Now, stop me if I’m wrong but quite a lot of other sites seem to want to centralise and manage all my stuff, and to be frank it’s getting a little wearing. They are also quite large. Google? Yahoo? MSN? With the greatest respect, adversaries like these are perhaps a tad dicey to compete with, even for a plucky startup from Sheffield.

In addition some slightly odd features are being planned such as the ability to “browse the Internet from the CMN website anonymously.” This would be handy for the dissident members from North Korea no doubt, though quite what the business model for this is, is not entirely clear. Update: Having tried it out, I can confirm it works, although the sensation of surfing from within the site is bizarre and feels pointless.

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It seems more like a case of what they won’t offer than what they will. But this ambition may be tricky – to say the least – to pull off. European startups, and British ones in particular, are often criticised for not having enough of a global vision. Does CreateMyNet have too much? There is a difference between trying to do everything and doing a handful of things very well.

Either way, we’ll know more when the Beta site comes out.

Update: On further inspection I found use of services from Userplane, an LA-based startup which provides community sites with tools like text/voice/video chatting, messaging, video messaging, etc. What this implies then is that CreateMyNet is simply putting its own wrapper on another site’s services. That’s fine, and plenty others do it of course, but it does explain how they can claim to deliver this range of services.

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