It seems that every other week a Social Networking site pops up on the internet wanting to be the next big thing.  Regardless of features it does come down to numbers; specifically how many users are regularly engaged on the site.

Facebook dominates with around 850 million users;  Google came along last year with Google+ and while I think it is a great social networking site, it is still limping along with around 100 million users.  Of course most sites would love to have numbers like this. Even with 100million users, if your real friends are on another network then your G+ experience in limited to virtual chums.

There are many other sites grappling for your  Social time and here comes another one -- Zurker.

Zurker has taken a very different approach to its startup funding and also how it attracts early adopters.  Firstly, Zurker is not funded by venture capitalists (as is the norm for most startups -- Unthink for example received $2.5million startup costs).  Zurker is owned by its members, primarily via donations.  Every penny is accounted for and they openly display their income and expenditure on the website.

Secondly, Zurker are offering vShares to the early adopters.  Basically, you receive one vShare for each person who joins the network from your recommendation.  You may also purchase vShares a £1 each to make small investments in the project.  The plan is for Zurker to hit 1,000,000 vShares and they will then restructure as a Public corporation and your vShares will be converted into real stocks and therefore hard cash if you sell them.  The vShare idea is an interesting concept, firstly for attracting new users but also enticing them with the potential of real value if the project succeeds.

vShares are allocated on a country specific basis, so if you signup to the UK version you only get vShares for each UK member you also sign up.  If you get one of your friends in the USA to sign up you will not receive a vShare.

I struggled to find a beta launch date for Zurker, but they were in closed Alpha in December 2011.  As at today (13 March 2012) they have 14,232 members, still in a closed beta stage and membership is by invite only at present.

Now on to usability -- I have to be honest and say I really did not take to the layout at all.  It's very simple, dated and awkward feeling.  It reminds me of a web page developed 10 years ago.  I'm sorry, I know it sounds harsh.  As a user I appreciate a well thought out design but it did not feel engaging.  I was however pleased to discover a user guide to walk me through their terminology and how things work -- often this is omitted in beta sites.

As a web developer I look to see how the page is constructed.  I was horrified to see that the layout is almost exclusively made up of tables!  Any web developer knows that tables should never be used for layout, they are used to present tabular data.  Worse still the page is full of in-line styling -- another massive faux pas!

I really like their funding concept and it would be amazing if it worked, or at the very least was the stepping stone to something better.  In its current incarnation it will never attract significant users to make it a worthy alternative to the big boys.

If you are interested in trying it here is a link to a Zurker invitation.

site by DAJ