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Get Your Hands on Hot Beta Invites

Mike Arrington wrote about it. Rafe Needleman did too. It was, as Rafe said, “inevitable” so I’m going to write about Invite Share as well. With Pownce invites for sale on eBay a full-on invite exchange was likely.

Invite Share launched just 5 days ago on July 8 and already has nearly 6,500 users (there appear to be are a lot of people waiting for invitations, however, since they’ve only distributed just over 5,000 of them so far). The site got so popular, so fast, that the owners put it up for sale after TechCrunch featured it last night, and have thus far attracted a high bid of $7,500.

The concept is simple: Join the site and send out invitations to people waiting to get into services, the more invitations you send out, the higher you move up the waiting list for invites to services you aren’t yet a member of. Invite Share handles invites for 37 different services, the most popular being Pownce, Joost, 8apps. Moola, and Spock.

From a consumer perspective this idea is a great one. It’s maddening not being able to get into the hot beta and see what everyone is clamoring about (it’s generally a little easier when you write for a blog like Read/WriteWeb, but most people don’t have that luxury — and even we get shut out of betas sometimes). From the perspective of web app owners, though, this site could be poison.

Invite-only betas are generally run for two reasons: 1. they create a ton of buzz and 2. you can control the growth of your app so all that buzz doesn’t cripple your service. If Invite Share really catches on, and these services start to feel the added load as invites spread faster than they had been, web sites might begin limiting how invites are handed out. For example, they could keep new users from getting invites right away, or only release invites every few days.

The concept, of course, isn’t new. When Google launched Gmail as an invite-only service, a number of forums were set up to specifically trade Gmail invitations. Most of those forums no long exist, but because a new service seems to launch in invite only beta every few weeks, Invite Share will likely be able to last longer.

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