Gravity launched its group conversation website to the public tonight. Founded by three former MySpace executives - Amit Kapur, Steve Pearman, and Jim Benedetto - and backed by Redpoint Ventures and August Capital, Gravity "connects people with shared interests and helps them engage in meaningful and fun conversations."High-profile startup
Unlike other social networks that rely on previous relationships, Gravity connects users with others "you should know and should be talking to because they share your passions." Rather than rely on existing social connections, Gravity encourages users to make new ones.
Using metaphors from astrophysics Gravity allows users to create "Worlds" (topics)
that they can "orbit" (follow). This metaphor does not extend to "Amir, the friendly neighborhood dinosaur" that serves as the guide.
There are real-time notifications to conversations that one "orbits," and the company indicates there will be an API that allows widgets to be embedded elsewhere.
Although Gravity seeks to do something new, the dinosaur might be an apt mascot, for the site seems to be in most respects a combination of forums and groups - two of the Internet's earliest forms of social networking. The threads are organized chronologically, with embedded comments and the ever-popular "like" feature.
Liz Gannes wrote tonight on GigaOm that "the back end is a dynamic 'interest graph' with deep analytics about people's participation." She notes though that Om Malik "thinks the company is just hoping to latch onto general tech industry excitement about big data." TechCrunch had in-depth coverage of the company's plans for its data in December.
The service has been in private beta since December, and those who are active on Gravity already seem to be pleased with the service and with its look-and-feel. I did get quick and friendly responses to the conversations I started there, although admittedly the topics seemed, well, conversational. Contrast this with an informational site like Quora, a site founded by former Facebook CTO Adam D'Angelo, where users participate less in conversation than in Q&A. SnapGroups, a site started by Yahoo Groups inventor Mark Fletcher earlier this month, is similar as well.
Some say there are two types of people in social networking: those who like Facebook and those who prefer MySpace. The difference between Quora and Gravity might just echo this.