Microsoft is taking reservations starting April 28 for a limited beta of a new public-information service called Vine.
The service, slated to go to testers in May, uses alerts, reports and a personal dashboard to allow users to stay in touch, particularly during crisis situations.
The Vine service initially was developed by the Windows Live team, post Hurricane Katrina. I heard a bit about the service back in June 2008, after which the service -- like a number of Windows Live properties -- seemed to just disappear. It turns out the concept was passed over to Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie’s division and incubated like other technologies in Microsoft's Start Up Business Accelerator group. "Eventually, products and services started in the accelerator will transition into one of Microsoft’s existing business divisions," a spokesperson said.
Here's Microsoft's description of what Vine is and how it will work:
"Stay in touch with family and friends, be informed when someone you care about needs help. Get involved to create great neighborhoods, communities or causes. You select the people and places you care about most. Use alerts, reports and your personal dashboard to stay in touch, informed and involved.
"Information associated with the places you have chosen will appear on your map, including articles culled from 20,000 local and national news sources as well as public safety announcements from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Information associated with the people you care about who are in your Vine network will appear on the dashboard too. You will know when they send you an alert, post a report or update their Facebook status information."
For users accessing Vine via the Internet, the software component of the beta service requires a PC running XP SP2 or Vista; and 600 MB of hard disk space (100 MB for Vine and 500 MB for the .Net Framework 3.5 SP1).
"The baseline offering of Microsoft Vine will available at no charge," a spokesperson told me. "Over time, you can expect to see premium services added on to the baseline offering, for a fee."
Microsoft is targeting Vine at small groups of people who want to stay in touch, like families, neighbors, sports teams, volunteer groups and the like. Vine can work with Twitter, Facebook e-mail, mobile phones or landline phones, according to the Softies. It requires users to create yet another profile that will be shared with group members.
Just don't call Vine another social-networking tool. Microsoft prefers it be known as a "societal networking" service.
Whatever you call it, I'm already on social-networking overload myself. What about you? Do you think Vine has a chance to propogate alongside Twitter, Facebook, etc.?