Written by Jay Fortner and edited by Richard MacManus
After the Super Bowl and the defeat of my team the Chicago Bears, I checked my inbox to see how many Evite invitations I'd received for Super Bowl parties. Evite has been around for a relatively long time (1998), with very little competition. For example all my friends use Facebook or Evite to send out electronic invitations. But what competition is out there for Evite? In this post I check out a few of the 'web 2.0' sites that could one day usurp Evite. They are all promising, but have some way to go before they appeal to the average person and not just early adopters.
This Chicago-based Evite system is meant for casual events. Currently the user interface is not aesthetically pleasing, but the service offers a wiki-like product to enable gatherings big or small. With some refining of the UI, they have a chance. I like the navigation and their emphasis on sharing and aggregating information for invites. Currently, the site has no clear monetization strategy.
Mypunchbowl is like an advanced Evite, in that it sticks mainly to features that are similar to Evite's - such as customized templates. They make it simple and easy for registration and have integrated message boards, updates, and the ability to edit your RSVP status to increase the pre-event conversation. After you have planned an event, they give recommendations of party stores and other places of interest. This could be of major interest and I expect Mypunchbowl to strike many deals with local retailers, with the goal of being a data mine of sponsored local listings. Over time, this may be a compelling business model.
I really like Renkoo, although it feels kind of "geeky". You can use Renkoo to begin the organization of an event and reach a consensus on the next meeting place. The conversation can be tracked in many different formats - including instant messenger, email, SMS or on Renkoo's website. Their 'Comet' technology enables two-way, real time communication for all people taking part in the discussion. If someone isn't logged in, the conversation will be displayed in full the next time they go to their Renkoo account. All in all, Renkoo has a shot because of their management team, use of technology on multiple platforms, and they are well funded.
There are other evite sites out there, such as Goovite and Socializr. But in general the online invite space has a long way to go. In order to build the necessary critical mass, these sites have to find a way to encourage the average person to send out a couple of invites a week - and not just for major events like the Super Bowl. These sites can provide tremendous value to review and local sites, as well as provide recommendations on events in the area.
Note that the major difference between events 2.0 sites, such as upcoming.org, and the sites we've profiled here, is the emphasis on pre-event planning. But along with pre-event planning, the above services need to be smarter and suggest events that I would like to attend - based on my previous history. Additionally, they should make it easy for me to send out a quick invite to my group, without going through the pains of creating a formal invite off a template. If we all want to meet up for lunch, it should take me less than a minute - and integrate with all of our mobile devices - so that we can meet up quickly. Until this happens, and is simple enough for mainstream people, Evite will still reign supreme in the online invitation arena.