A friendlier online community for family and friends

Up until recently, social networking sites have been very focused and one dimensional in their online offerings of dating networks or business contact networking, but that landscape is starting to see a change.

Multiply.com is leading the trend of offering other Web services to their social networking site such as a photo sharing archive, advanced messaging, blogs, calendars, contact management, e-mail and recipes.

Multiply (multiply.com) is a new Web-based communication tool and announced recently it will offer its users one gigabyte (GB) worth of free storage space.

Michael Gersh, co-founder of social networking site Multiply.com, took a few minutes to tell us all about this trend.

Q: Why do you think online social networking sites like Multiply.com are now becoming a popular?

Gersh: It depends a lot on the social networking site. I think Multiply, for example, is popular with our users for different reasons than a social network sight focused on dating, or professional or business connections. They all fall into their niches and in providing novel, unique new way of looking at how you’re connected. The social network sites that focus on dating provide an easy way to break the ice between two people that didn’t exist before. I think they’re more popular now because its niche areas have been validated online. I don’t think you’d have the popularity of a social networking site about dating without a Match.com or AOL Personals paving the way for the past five or six years.

Q: Multiply.com has a broader focus. Why don’t you share that with us.

Gersh: Multiply’s popular now because it allows people to meet each other but it helps people become closer with someone they already know. That is kind of our focus: communication, sharing of content. A lot of the other sites focus on the networking part of social networking – and your contacts in a bigger network. We are allowing people to come closer together despite being more communicative. Think of social networking as your address book. It is nothing more than just a bunch of address books connected to each other.

Q: What I like about Multiply is your philosophy. Everybody is a little oversaturated with how many friends and contacts they have online. How nice to just focus on close friends and make that more of a relevant, enriched environment.

Gersh: That’s actually one of our challenges right now. We try to encourage people to keep their networks limited with people they really know. A lot of people question the validity of a network when you have 500 friends.

One of the biggest things we do that none of the other sites do right now is we identify every relationship with a label. When you add someone as a contact, you specify from 50 different relationships types – cousin, wife, sister, fraternity brother, schoolmate.

Q: Seems like all the other social networking sites are caught up in the idea of how many friends you can have when you can’t give any attention to 400-500 friends. The core concept of drilling down to your close friends or those that you want frequent contact with to share things online, whether they are pictures are media files, seems like it is the real sweet spot in the direction that you’re going. What other services will you offer going into the future?

Gersh: Our photo sharing service is our most popular one. When a person signs up, they get their own homepage and they can had their photos, and their blog or journal entry, they can write movie reviews, have classified and section of personal marketplace.

Q: In June, you added your 1 GB e-mail storage service. Tell us about that.

Gersh: There has been a lot of focus on the Internet to offer storage to people. I think Google was first with their g-mail. We just feel our site is a great communications tool.

Q: The whole storage area is important to the social networks because I think over time people are looking for places to store valuable files or even movies or audio. Is that a direction you’re going as well?

Gersh: Absolutely. We’re going to meet the demand of our user base. When home movies become as mainstream as digital pictures are today, customers will want the ability to share them.

Q: Tell us how people can join Multiply.com.

Gersh: Signing up is very easy. The basic service is free. Go to Multiply.com and you get a simple registration form. Once you sign up, you can invite contacts. That way when you add a photo or write a blog or journal entry, these people will be notified. That’s really the whole purpose of our site – to foster communication amongst people.

Q: There’s a premium service, too?

Gersh: We do plan on offering one in the future. That 1 GB of storage is currently free. We imagine there will be power users, especially when they have movies, which may want more storage. Plus, we would add more tools that will allow people to customize their home page.

The full audio interview with Michael Gersh is available at WebTalkRadio.com.

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.