Everloop, the social network for children under 13, is planning to launch a mobile application, making it one of the first companies to attempt a mobile, social network just for kids. The app, arriving in the third week of June, will translate the desktop experience to the small screen, beginning with iOS (iPhone & iPod Touch) before heading to other platforms like Android.
The company, which closed a seed round of $3.1 million last year, is also in the process of raising its Series A and is in search of a strategic investor to help it expand.
Although Everloop is now three and half years old, the company’s slow growth has been by design, explains CEO Hilary DeCesare. “Something like this takes time to build up,” she says, “you don’t just come out and say, ‘hey, we’re a safe site for kids.'”
Today, the company reports that 200,000 children and around 75,000 parents are using its service on the web, and it has been growing around 10% to 15% month-over-month during the past year.
It’s hard to operate in the social networking space without the inevitable Facebook comparison, but news of Everloop’s expansion to mobile comes at an interesting time. Facebook is reportedly now mulling over whether or not it can allow children under 13 to join its network, according to a recent report from the WSJ. If that were to happen, it goes without saying that Everloop would soon be facing some steep competition. So the question is not whether or not Everloop can exist outside of Facebook’s shadow – Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram have proven it’s possible to establish a social audience beyond Facebook’s gates. The question is whether or not kids would ever willingly choose Everloop if Facebook officially opened up to them.
For what it’s worth, Everloop is structured differently than Facebook – it’s focused more around children’s interests, which it calls “loops.” These can be based on anything at all, whether entertainment (think Justin Bieber, Twilight), sports, animals (golden retrievers, kittens), etc. And the interests are supplemented by content provided by Everloop’s now 25 brand partners, a group which includes big names like National Geographic, Mattel, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and others. (Many are listed on the company’s homepage).
In addition – and key to Everloop’s value proposition to parents – is its ability to teach children about what’s appropriate on social networking services. If a child posts using swear words, attempts cyberbullying, or engages in any other inappropriate behavior, Everloop doesn’t allow the content to be posted and tells the child why. “All kids try to push the envelope,” says DeCesare, “but when they do, we want to notify them.”
The in-house moderation team consists of a staff of three plus a community manager, but the company has been scaling its moderation with assistance from Metaverse Mod Squad, which assists in reviewing the site’s content.
As for the kids, there a number of features they might enjoy, including games, music, videos, the aforementioned “loops,” as well as an incredibly goofy (and therefore, popular) feature called “Goobs.” These are something like harmless pranks, explains DeCesare. They let you toilet paper someone’s screen, for example, throw food or squash bugs on the screen. There’s also one with a puppy that throws up on the screen then licks it. (I know, gross. But apparently, this is really hilarious to kids). “We want to bring out kids’ whimsical side,” says DeCesare, “kids grow up way too fast.”
These “Goobs” will translate to the mobile app, which also aims to “help kids stay kids,” DeCesare says. Kids text all the time, and Everloop on mobile will feel something like texting combined with graphics. And it will allow kids to keep up with their “loops” (interests), post to their loops, and stay in touch with friends in a safe, moderated, cyberbully-free environment.
Another plus for kids, is that, even though parents are kept informed of what kids are doing on Everloop through notifications, they can’t embarrass kids by actually commenting on their posts. (That’s a lesson which more parents should take heed of on Facebook, too.)
Perhaps Facebook will soon figure out how to bring in kids to its network and keep them safe, but DeCesare has her doubts. “The way we’ve developed Everloop is that we’ve thought of the kids first,” she says. “If you look at Facebook, they’re really had bad corporate governance around identity with adults. Our attitude is that if they can’t keep adults’ information safe, how are they planning on doing that with kids? If you look at their open architecture that they have set their business on – which is ‘let everyone see everything you have to say about everything’ – it goes against their structure to have something like a closed environment for kids.”
It’s true that Facebook’s general agenda and many parents’ agenda for their children don’t necessarily match up. But Everloop faces a problem that a kid-friendly Facebook would not – its audience keeps growing up, and is then forced to leave the site.