Since I joined TechCrunch I’ve seen more Twitter clones and derivatives then I’d care to remember, most of which haven’t really gone anywhere. But there are a few gems that have managed to tackle markets that Twitter has, for whatever reason, ignored. One of these is Yammer, the “Twitter for businesses” that won the top prize at last year’s TechCrunch50. And in the last few days, it’s become increasingly clear to me that there’s another niche market just waiting for a Twitter-like service: Family.
Earlier this week I was talking to TechCrunch alum (and rockstar dev) Henry Work, who told me he was thinking of setting up a Yammer account with the sole purpose of keeping in touch with his immediate family. It’s a fantastic idea — Yammer allows for secure, private communication, offers an iPhone app, SMS support, and a web client, and is free for basic functionality. Even better: the company has just comfirmed that it’s planning to offer Push notifications for its iPhone app in the near future, which would help cut back on SMS costs.
It’s not hard to think of countless ways that a family-oriented Yammer group could come in handy, especially for families with children who are still in school. Need someone to pick up the kids from baseball practice? Send out a message and see if a spouse or older sibling can help, without having to wade through a game of phone tag. Quickly send out reminders that you’re heading to Grandma’s house in the morning to make sure nobody sleeps in. And, of course, you can hold nightly polls to figure out what’s for dinner.
But there’s one hitch. Yammer only accepts users with company Email addresses — you can’t just fill in your Gmail account and get started. Anyone looking to use Yammer in this fashion would have to register their own domain name and create a new Email account for each family member. In other words, it’s not something that the vast majority of the population is going to be doing any time soon.
I’m sure there are a handful of under-appreciated startups that have had this very idea, but a quick Google search for “Twitter for families” doesn’t reveal any obvious choices. In fact, most of the relevant links are articles talking about people who actually do use Twitter itself to talk to their families. I suppose that would work if you kept all of your tweets private and didn’t want to let anyone other than your family members follow you, but that doesn’t seem practical.
So here’s what we need: a Yammer-like service that allows for easy signups (rather than use domains to restrict registrations, it could simply require approval from the family’s account admin). Monetization could involve premium features (calendar reminders?) or perhaps a low monthly fee. Given that it already has the technology, Yammer could obviously build something like this fairly quickly — they could even use it to further extend the Geni brand (Yammer was a Geni spin-off). And if they don’t do it, someone else should.