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Social Networking Site Targets Professionals

Members can create networks and share information just like at other sites, but CollectiveX also offers password-protected networks targeting organized groups ranging from large associations to small book clubs and social groups.

Social networking sites are pushing past teenagers and 20-somethings to build a new wave of Internet communities targeting professionals.

CollectiveX on Monday launched a social networking site meant to attract enterprises, non-profit groups, university groups and alumni, and other professionals. While the online hub joins a list of established players from LinkedIn Corp. to Visible Path Corp., founder and entrepreneur Clarence Wooten believes his site can offer business professionals something more.

Like most social networking sites, CollectiveX allows users to create networks and share information to update and reconnect with business associates, family, and friends. But unlike typical social networking sites open and accessible to anyone, CollectiveX offers password-protected networks targeting organized groups ranging from large associations to small book clubs and social groups.

"Groups have been using Yahoo Groups and e-mail to communicate for awhile, but none combine social networking with group communications," Wooten said. He believes CollectiveX will do for professional groups what MySpace did for individuals.

Combining group e-mail and communication services gives users features such as group calendars, e-mail blasts and shared file folders. Groups can privately share a calendar and add meeting dates.

The interface to create a user bio requires answering a few questions about employer, occupation, and education. Wooten said software engineers used the Ruby object-oriented programming language to write the code that automatically creates bios from a few simple answers.

The site, in part, will operate on advertising revenue. The service comes with password protection, 10 MB file storage, social networking features and access to a shared calendar. Those who choose the basic version must put up with ads.

A $19 per month version still contains ads, but storage space increases to 500 MB and group e-mail blast functions are included. The advertising annoyance disappears for $36 per month in the professional plan, which includes features, such as 2 GB file storage and secure 128 SSL data encryption.

Building the business, however, won't be easy. New social networking services pop up almost monthly and growth continues to soar. Collectively, the sites grew 47 percent year over year, up from 46.8 million in 2005 to 68.8 million in April 2006, reaching 45 percent of active Web users, according to the numbers released Thursday from Nielsen-NetRatings.

At least two other sites were unveiled last month. Sisterwoman.com geared toward women over 21 who wish to join a "sisterwoman circle," and JibJab Media Inc.'s JokeBox, which invites users to share jokes.

And there's another hurtle to jump. Last week Pennsylvania congressman Michael G. Fitzpatrick, a first-term Republican representative, introduced a bill to the house that would ban minors from accessing social networking Web sites, such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com, and prohibit public libraries from granting access.

The bill known as the "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006" also would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to publish an annual list of commercial social networking Web sites and chat rooms that have demonstrated that sexual predators have easy access to personal information and contact with kids. Parents, teachers and libraries would use the list as a reference.

“Sites like MySpace and Facebook have opened the door to a new online community of social networks between friends, students and colleagues,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement on his Web site. “However, this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

Wooten doesn't believe the bill will affect CollectiveX. "To be part of a CollectiveX group, you must be invited by the group and your profile is only accessible to other members of groups that you belong to," he said. "CollectiveX groups are more about professional networking within a group as opposed to open social 'personal' networking. Most CollectiveX groups are not comprised of minors."

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