NEWS

Rural Facebook rival aims to build local social networks

08/09/2013 06:05 EDT | Updated 10/09/2013 05:12 EDT
Some web developers in rural Manitoba are building a social media website — a potential rival to Facebook — that they hope will better connect people to their communities.

Eric Boisjoli and his team are working from a warehouse in Ile des Chênes, Man., on Community-info, which aims to be a "one-stop shop" of information and updates from rural towns and urban neighbourhoods.

Users can go to a specific community's page and join local discussions, promote upcoming events and post classified ads.

"I started it off on my own, in my off-hours from home, in my basement," Boisjoli, 27, told CBC News on Friday.

Boisjoli, who moved to Ile des Chênes several years ago, said the idea for the website came when he was looking one day for information about what was going on in town.

"I had to go to the community club website and then I had to go to the arena website, and there was one person who ran his own Ile des Chênes website, and Facebook had four different … pages for Ile des Chênes," he said.

"I was like, well, this is kind of scattered and I don't still know what's going on and I'm never going to check every site."

Sharing information locally

The goal of Community-info, Boisjoli said, is to have people sharing information with others where they live.

It's different from Facebook and Twitter, he explained, because those social networking websites present content from users' friends and the people they follow.

"I won't know that Jim's having a garage sale because I don't personally know Jim," he said.

"So with Community-info, it's kind of like you post something that you think will be relevant to people around you."

The site, which is free to use and generates revenue from ads and business websites, currently has 475 community pages and almost 1,000 members, like Montana Quiring of St. Adolphe, Man.

Quiring said he uses the website to promote events and get the word out for the sports leagues he runs.

"Because they have created sites for other communities in the area as well, you can go onto those websites and see what's happening in other towns that are close by, which in the past has been kind of tricky and hard to find out what's happening in other towns unless you know people," he said.

Boisjoli and his team are currently working on a mobile app, but they have their sights set on bigger goals.

"The ultimate dream would be that this beats out Facebook!" he said.

Regardless of whether Community-info reaches Facebook's level of success, Boisjoli said he'll be happy to see people connecting with his website.

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