RealTime IT News

Diller Extends Socializing with Search

Less than a year after acquiring the ZeroDegrees business networking service, Barry Diller's InteractiveCorp is set to release a revamped version with built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features.

ZeroDegrees, which is expected to exit a beta period at the TechXNY show in New York this week, now integrates user profiles with an internal linking technology that connects to major search engines.

The move is aimed at displaying the names of ZeroDegrees members more prominently on search engine results. Additionally, the new version will let users list specialties and localities, such as "attorney in Denver," to link into keyword searches for those phrases in major search engines.

ZeroDegrees spokesman Nick Saidner said connecting with public search engines was a "natural extension" of the business networking concept.

"The network already offers a connection to a chain of people and a credible way to make the introduction. With search engine optimization, the concept expands dramatically," Saidner said in an interview with internetnews.com.

He said the new search engine optimization gives users the option to market their services and attract business connections with an audience beyond the ZeroDegrees network.

"Sometimes, as a user, I don't know who that person is that I want to reach. Or, on the flip side, if I want to be reachable, I need to be out there and available. The search engine optimization component enables me to better do that," he added.

Even as skeptics continue to question the business model surrounding the social networking concept, ZeroDegress is pressing ahead with plans for a premium version offering add-on benefits for members.

Saidner declined to provide specifics on the subscription plans, which he described as the "primary business model" for social networks.

"We all believe that social networking as a base product isn't a sustainable long-term revenue proposition. But there's great value around a premium service that can leverage some adjacent industries," he said.

Premium features could include job searching capabilities and direct business development networking options, he said.

He did not rule out the use of classifieds and targeted advertising as ways to find revenues from the software that connects friends to friends of friends.

The new version of ZeroDegrees also adds ZMail, a browser-based e-mail tool and a Web-based contact manager that allows allows friends and contacts to be seen in the same view.

The interface tweaks will also return detailed search results when users search for a given user. Instead of just returning a name and a title, a search query will now return the description and background provided and approved by the contact.

ZeroDegrees stressed that the service is 100 percent opt-in at every level and lets each subscriber decide what is published about them, who can see their information, whom they are linked to or who can search across their network.

It also lets subscribers participate in the service, but still remain unknown or confidential to other subscribers who are connected to them.

InteractiveCorp acquired ZeroDegrees, which competes with LinkedIn, Ryze and Tribe Networks for a share of the Internet business networking market, earlier this year. InteractiveCorp also owns the Match.com online dating service and Evite, a service that powers online invitations and local event listings.