Pip.io: Not Just Another Social Network?

After a beta test period that attracted more than 10,000 users, Pip.io went live to the public Monday and quickly more than doubled its user base within a few hours.

A user base of 20,000+ is of course nothing compared to sites like Facebook, which recently said it’s close to hitting the 400 million mark. But Pip.io has big dreams.

“My strategy is not to necessarily compete head on with the social media sites, but do something they don’t do. A lot of stuff we have is unique and this first release is only five percent of my total vision,” Leo Shimizu, Pip.io’s CEO and co-founder, told InternetNews.com.

That vision includes offering more than Facebook and Twitter and “privacy done right,” said 24-year old entrepreneur Shimizu. “What’s also really cool is that we don’t necessarily want you to stop using Facebook or Twitter …. But you can continue to use them within Pip.io.”

Pip.io (rhymes with zippio) positions itself as the Web’s first “social operating system.” In Pip.io’s view, there’s a spectrum of communication options on the Web, ranging from private chat like instant messaging to the “global voyeurism” Facebook and Twitter excel at by giving users a platform to broadcast what they’re up to — among other content.

Pip.io said it expands a user’s options by offering a greater choice of how you want, for example, posts to be published. It can be private, limited to subscribers or public for all Pip.io users. Private “Rooms” in Pip.io can be invitation-only; for example, the room is open only to family members.

Shimizu said Pip.io’s forwarding feature is the first tool of its kind for curation on a social network site. Any post can be forwarded to whoever you specify or made public. “Kind of like retweeting,” he said. “You can selectively broadcast to whoever you choose.”

Applications added to the platform

Pip.io launches with access to five applications on the site: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube and an RSS reader. The company is targeting summer for release of a full API, but it’s also already working with a number of other developers to bring their apps to Pip.io.

In addition to encouraging third-party apps, Pip.io thinks it will be able to enhance their functionality. In the case of YouTube, for example, videos can be viewed simultaneously by a group of people from within Pip.io and those in the group could also chat online about the content or anything else, for that matter.

Each viewer could also pause the video if it needed to be interrupted for some reason and everyone’s viewing would be paused and stay in sync. Shimizu said the Netflix app could be enhanced to offer similar features.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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