Before the days of vampire bites and “social advertising” there were online message boards. In 1999 eGroups had 17 million members when they sold to Yahoo for $432 million in stock. Now they have over 100 million members with an equally large volume of email traded back and forth. Add on top of that users with groups services from Google, AOL, MSN, and the independent forums (around a 300 million “boardscape”) and the numbers grow hundreds of millions more.
But these forums can be somewhat dated when compared to their modern social networking brethren or at the very least inconvenient when your interests span multiple domains. Managing your conversation across multiple boards can be a pain. Grouply, a startup that’s been flying relatively under the radar, aims to provide an easier way to manage your conversations across these groups and social features. They plan to expand to all online groups, but they’re starting with Yahoo and Google Groups. Klostu is another startup looking to simplify the long tail of message boards. Meetro is expected to launch their own simplified forum system as well.
Grouply, in effect, takes over your interface with the groups websites. You can carry out all your normal tasks from Yahoo Groups, but with an added management and social layer. Simply give it your credentials and Grouply starts tracking your conversations across your groups. Technically speaking, Grouply does this by substituting an @grouply email address for your email contact to start receiving group updates on your behalf. All your messages are collected into one main feed with several intelligent ways of sorting through them for information you care about. Messages are organized by group, threaded by conversation, rated, and tagged. Any ratings or tags users add to a messages are shared with other members. Each message thread is automatically put into one of five groups identified by icons: discussion, wanted, events, for sale, and news. They’re also organized into summary feeds and smart digest, which only show you updates for conversations you’ve shown some interest in by reading.
I can only imagine that Grouply is going through the trouble of improving upon Yahoo and Google Groups so that one day it becomes simply easier to use Grouply instead of the boards they manage. It’s kind of an evolutionary instead of revolutionary strategy.