I got the rundown on CollectiveX's new 2.0 product, Groupsites, yesterday. It's a customizable workgroup and social network site, and it's got some nice features. There's a lot on the service that's quite good. I would have no problem recommending Groupsites to someone who wants to build a professional or a social site. I don't think the service will bite or frustrate its users. But it might not excite too many people, either.
The big selling point of today's version 2.0 launch is that login credentials can work across its sites. Say you're a member of a professional group for work, a social club, and a parents' group. With Groupsites, you only have to log on once to get access to all the sites. Moreover, you only have to create your profile once, and if you like, you can create both business and social profiles, and select which one you want to use on each site you're a member of.
The service offers the groups themselves some nice features: Forums, a group calendar, a file library (although with limited storage), an email broadcast manager, and an activity log not unlike the Facebook mini-feed. Groupsite navigation is simple and clear. And there are some clever touches. For example, when users are setting up their professional profiles, the system can automatically write a bio based upon questions that they answer.
As a business tool (which it was originally designed for), the service is solid, if basic. There's no wiki and no open API to build custom apps. The API is 30 days out, CEO Clarence Wooten told me. In the meantime, you can put custom elements on pages, Myspace style.
The service will be compared to Ning (review), which is fair. Ning is a great tool for building mini social nets, and it's being used for both personal and professional groups. Wooten says Groupsites could also be called a "build your own Facebook," but until the Groupsites user base grows quite a bit, that's more aspirational than accurate. The service can also be compared to Microsoft SharePoint, Yahoo Groups, and Google Groups.
I like Groupsites, but its free service isn't radically better than its competitors. Business users looking to control access and branding, though, might want to seriously consider it. You can redirect custom domains to Groupsites, and for reasonable fees, you can strip out the default ads and skin the site to look just the way you like.
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