iPhone Can Now Cast a Wider Social Net

Why ‘limit’ yourself to the hundreds of millions of users on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networks?

A new iPhone application extends the boundaries of established social networks by letting you go beyond the typical network of friends and friends-of-friends to connect with people with similar interests.

flyChat launched today for the iPhone as a $1.99 application in the App Store. Interestingly, flyChat’s creator, Project 1010, is positioning it in the entertainment part of the App Store, rather than social networks. flyChat also works with the iPod Touch.

“Basically, flyChat is for social networking but it has a lot of entertainment elements and we thought it would do better in that area,” Dima Novik, president and co-founder of Project 1010, told InternetNews.com. The company has released an amusing promo video that explains the service.

flyChat’s release comes at time of booming interest in social networks, particularly Twitter, the micro-blogging service that lets users post brief, real-time tweets.

Novik said flyChat is different because it offers a way to meet people with similar interests you might never otherwise met. He compares it to a kind of digital penpal experience or a virtual message in a bottle.

The entertainment aspects are the “flies,” little animations that deliver responses to your messages. You can send a fly to specific channels (Sports, Humor, Health, Pets, Jobs, Shopping, etc.) and also subscribe to specific channels to get regular updates.

So if you want to talk about the best way to cheer up a pug, a fly to the Pets channel might be your best bet. You can also tailor messages to go to users in a particular city or country or institution (university or company).

Flies include a user’s profile which can also be anonymous. A fly from someone you’ve already connected with comes in colored green, while a new one has an earth tone. You can also limit flies to people you know. Flies that come in during evening hours are lit up like fireflies.

“The big advantage we see is that it can be awkward to start a conversation with someone you don’t know,” Novik said. “Here, the nature of the application is that you expect random messages from people who want to communicate with you. ”

Novik said Project 1010 is far along on a Web version of flyChat it will release this year that won’t include the animated, entertainment elements (on the iPhone you can also “shoo” flies away with a flick of the finger). The Web version will give flyChat users the ability to use the service on the desktop while serving to grow the number of users beyond iPhone owners.

He also said there’s a strong possibility Project 1010 will extend flyChat to other mobile platforms.

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