This week a new social network debuted. While many social media users may glaze over at the mention of another new social network, Chime.in seeks to offer a combination of features found in several other social media networks brought together in a new way that users will find more useful. As Mashable put it, Chime.in “combines Twitter, Blogging and Reddit.” To further differentiate itself, Chime.in also aims to be “the world’s richest interest network” and, as such, organizes itself more around interests than around individuals or organizations. This means that you are prompted to follow specific interests and communities in addition to specific users. And, even if you opt to follow a specific user, you have the opportunity to specify that you only want to see “chimes” by that individual on certain topics. So, if you followed a colleague in your profession, you could receive only their chimes regarding the profession rather than seeing all of their personal chimes in the same stream.
Chimes themselves can take a variety of forms. Users can post up to 4,000 characters, with a headline, the beginning of the post, any selected media (such as images, video or polls) and profile information showing up in followers’ “chimelines.” Each chime includes a section for comments and individual comments can be voted up or down, which moves the comments up or down in the list in much the same way as on Reddit. Users also have the option of adding “interests,” which are basically keywords, to each chime. These interests are what allow users to follow specific interests rather than being limited to following individual users. Chime.in also features “Communities” which are groups built around specific topics. With all of these features together, Chime.in feels a bit like a mashup of all of the features found on other social networks, but this does give users more flexibility in how they share and follow information than is found in other services. Chime.in also offers mobile apps for iPhones and Androids (with a Blackberry app coming soon), making it easy to share on the go. I’ve taken a look at the iPhone app and the layout is engaging and user-friendly at the same time, making it a reasonable way to follow your chimeline or post when you are away from your computer.
Having said that, I do agree with complaints that the look and user experience of Chime.in’s browser-based service leave a lot to be desired. In large part because Chime.in has ambitiously combined so many features, each page is very busy and therefore harder to engage with quickly. Even creating a chime involves more than 10 possible options that you can select from along the way, making it less straight-forward than some other social networks. Also, the ability to follow interests will be limited if users fail to include interests in each of their chimes, which could limit the usefulness of this feature over time. But, Chime.in remains in beta so the look and feel may change drastically in response to user feedback. And, the number of options is also Chime.in’s strength since it does allow users to do much more with the service than many other social networks. If users make use of all of these options, it will ultimately strengthen Chime.in overtime since it will make it easier to follow interests and it will allow users to share content in Chime.in that may have been spread over several social networks out of necessity in the past.
Overall, while Chime.in has some nice features that set it apart from other social networks, its long term usefulness will depend in large part on the community that it is able to attract and maintain. Social networks are only as useful as the network that you are able to build with them and this can be the downfall of new entries to this market. It remains to be seen whether Chime.in’s features will be compelling enough to lure users away from existing social networks or to convince them to carve more time out of their social media schedule to participate actively on Chime.in in addition to other social media networks though it bears mentioning that it is possible to simultaneously post your chimes to Facebook and Twitter (and soon Google+) as well.
For more information on this new social network, check out this The Next Web interview with Bill Gross, CEO of Ubermedia: