Six Apart announced last night the launch of its newest social networking site, Vox (Vox announcement here). The company that owns LiveJournal, Moveable Type and Typepad has done a lot of things right with this new site. The benefits of having waited for consumer desire to mature before launching a social networking site are clear in Vox.
The service developed a reputation among some people during its beta period as a social network for artsy San Francisco elitists – but everyone needs a beta testing group and that’s a pretty good one to have. Vox was originally known as Comet and we first wrote about it here.
Besides all the basic features of a social networking site, Vox includes extensive privacy controls, a tag cloud for blog posts and a beautiful WYSWIG composition page. Privacy levels are a big part of the company’s strategy, Meena Trott in particular has been talking for some time about how the future of blogging will be found in small, closed groups communicating with each other online.
Profile pages can’t be edited directly at the code level, but there are a number of layout options and more than 165 sharp looking themes. There’s also easy mobile browsing and posting. Media elements can be placed into Vox pages with ease and the site integrates with YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, iFilm and iStockphoto. Several of these are competing companies and it’s great that they are all available to users. IStockPhoto would have seemed like a strange choice to me had I not met the company yesterday and seen that their work is actually very community oriented and interesting.
One of the things that users are going to love about Vox is that the advertising is incredibly unobtrusive. The business model here looks really smart. There are large sidebar ads only on the admin pages, search results and a few others, it’s great. You can view profile pages and explore the site without looking at big ads! There are a few very small ads in public user pages and users are encouraged to post about their favorite books and movies. Those can be purchased by readers through affiliate links that Vox will monetize as well. I talked to Six Apart’s Anil Dash and he says the advertising is going to basically stay the way it is.
There are a few things I wish were different about Vox. The fact that clicking on a Flash media player takes you to a different Vox page with little else on it is very counter intuitive. If support for microformats was offered and done as well in Vox as other things are, that would be great. I’d also really like to see OpenID support and easy import/export of user data. Dash told me that they support OpenID as a server today (you can leave comments in LiveJournal as yourname.vox.com for example) and will be adding full client support for OpenID login soon. Dash said the company is working on a number of things to make export easier.
Overall, though, I think that Vox looks great at launch. It’s obvious that it was built by an experienced team who have been paid attention to how the market is developing and what people want in a social network. It’s uniquely easy on the eyes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see people flock to it. There are hordes of people dying to get out of MySpace and as general interest social networks go Vox looks like a very appealing alternative.