For better or worse, life is nothing like the Andy Griffith Show. Unless you live in Mayberry, chances are that you barely even know your neighbors, let alone borrow cups of sugar from them.
A niche social network called Nextdoor, which launched three years ago but last month rolled out its free iOS app, wants to introduce you to those weirdos next door--just kidding, I'm sure they're awesome--and give you an easy platform for sharing information with your neighbors. Nextdoor is also giving city officials a forum for distributing alerts--hey, a water main is broken!--to people in specific neighborhoods. The company on Friday announced a partnership with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg so city departments can relay information to specific neighborhoods on Nextdoor.
New York isn't the first city to partner with Nextdoor; San Diego, San Jose, Dallas, and more than 100 other local governments use the site to share news with residents. In San Jose, police used Nextdoor to spread the word about a serial package thief. In Southern California, the network was used to share information about wildfire evacuations.
"For us to have built a platform that the city government of NYC will use to help it be more resilient and more innovative--we're very excited to be part of that," says Nextdoor co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia.
Facebook connects you to friends and family. Twitter connects you to tastemakers. And LinkedIn connects you to colleagues and employers. Nextdoor's purpose? It connects you to people who live close by. You're probably not friends with them. You might not even recognize them if you see them on the street. But they live near you, and probably share the same rage about that one guy who blasts his music at 4 a.m. when everyone else on the street is, you know, sleeping.
"We understand social networks and use them ourselves but didn't feel we needed to create another service for status updates and photo-sharing," Tolia says. "We thought neighbors could get together to solve problems."
Nextdoor provides a local forum to complain about that music-blasting guy and other neighborhood issues like parking, upcoming events, apartments for rent, and crime. The network is private and makes you prove your residency by sending a postcard with a code to your house. You can also give a credit card or phone number for the site to check your billing address, but I picked the postcard option because I still like real mail. It showed up in three days, so if you're dying to sign up right away, the phone number might be a faster method.
Slow and steady
Nextdoor isn't actively looking for new neighborhoods to add, which is why its growth has been slow and organic. If your neighborhood doesn't have a place on the network when you sign up, you can create the page for it. There's a catch, though. You have to invite nine neighbors to sign up. Once they're in, there's a neighborhood.
Nextdoor is kind of like a message board where you can post in different areas. In my Nextdoor neighborhood, crime alerts and recommendations are the hot topics. You can find dog walkers, dry cleaners, new restaurants to try, an apartment to rent, or learn about smartphone snatchers that are following ladies home at night. These are pieces of information you can probably find on several different websites, but not in a centralized spot tailored to your location.
More than 14,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states are on Nextdoor, from rural areas to major cities. Not surprisingly, San Francisco (Nextdoor's home base) has the highest penetration, with 97 percent of the city's neighborhoods on the network.
Tolia said the government partnerships typically arise when the network has reached critical mass in a specific city. The neighborhoods grow based on word of mouth, and then Nextdoor sends its reps to the city to educate people on how to use it. That's the plan for NYC.
Next up for Nextdoor is an Android app in the next month or two. After that, the world: Nextdoor plans to go international by the end of the year.