The problem with Twitter, if it’s a problem, is that the only thing people can put in about themselves is a few short words and a URL. At least on Facebook you can add several URLs, a professional history, even publish your email address. Not on Twitter. What Twitter could use is a better ‘whois’ style look-up which replaces the frantic Googling you have to do to find anything more about a Twitter user.
New startup Qwerly, now launched into Alpha, is effectively that “whois for Twitter,” or perhaps even a “DNS for people” according to founder Max Niederhofer.
Since it’s clear we now all join new social networks and sites, keeping track of these is an issue. I recently spent a long afternoon just collacting them for my own personal blog, for instance (and not very neatly), but Qwerly has done it quite efficiently here. So Qwerly’s mission in life is to be the ultimate directory about what services you and the people in your life are using on the public internet.
Here’s how it works. You put in any Twitter username, and get page with that person’s other profiles, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Plancast and many other social networks and sites.
Robert Scoble’s Qwerly profile is thus suitably crammed with all the social networks and URLs he’s ever registered on. If you sign up, Qwerly will do searches for all the people you follow on Twitter, so you can see where they hang out online. And you can also edit, correct or delete the things Qwerly has found about you, thus taking control of your profile.
It’s also trying to work out who your contacts are.
Privacy advocates will have to bite their tongue since all Qwerly is doing is searching public web pages with its own propriatery search engine. The difference is they put you back in control, unlike those sucky ‘people search engines’ like 123people. In that respect it has something in common with Rapportive.
As an alpha site, Qwerly is not quite all there yet, but Niederhofer says the site is improving all the time.
You can also embed any profile on another web page by using the “embed” button. If you’re a web developer, you can also use Qwerly’s data via a read API.
Business model? Well clearly this is about getting as much scale as possible first then working out the next steps.
Niederhofer was previously a Principal at Atlas Venture, a venture capital firm. Prior to Atlas, he founded myblog.de, Germany’s largest blogging community, and was a seed investor in Last.fm, a music community (acquired by CBS). Besides Qwerly, he currently has angel investments in Skimlinks, Boticca and OneFineStay.