Microsoft has recently launched a new social web application called Vine that will first be beta tested in Seattle. Critics liken the service to a combination of Twitter and Facebook.
Vine will only be available on Windows PCs for now and may be offered on Macs and mobile phones later. Vine could be a great tool for keeping in touch and spreading information among family and friends and also in communities.
This new service is essentially a personalised messaging and alert system that can be especially useful in times of disaster and crises.
The Vine application must be downloaded and is then available as a widget on the desktop. It shows a map of the user’s friends’ and contacts’ locations, and will also indicate their status. Users can send and receive alerts and reports on the computer or as text messages on their mobile phones.
Unlike Twitter, Microsoft Vine will have a basic service available for free and a premium service that can be accessed by paying a subscription fee. This will make it seem a bit more official to government officials and executives. Microsoft hope to market the service to disaster management officials for receiving and sending information.
Hillman Mitchell, an emergency management coordinator in the Seattle metro area said in an interview with the Seattle Times, “I think, long- term, this is probably going to be a very valuable tool to help people keep connected.”
Emergency management professionals are already trying to use Twitter and Facebook during crises, but these services offer only limited streams of text and important messages can easily get diluted by unofficial, rumour-driven user input.
Users can already download and print an emergency contact card from the Vine website.
Microsoft Vine emergency card
Tammy Savage of Microsoft thought of building this product after the confusion caused by Hurricane Katrina. She expects Vine to be useful at such times. One wonders, however, if electricity and mobile networks would remain functional during a period of flooding.
It is not yet clear what the cost of this service will be per user, but if it becomes popular, Microsoft could earn significant revenues by charging a nominal subscription fee.
While Vine appears to be similar to other communications services, Microsoft will offer government agencies a direct means of communication with the public during important events and disasters. It also collects information from 20,000 news sources.
Vine could eventually turn out to be big competition for the likes of Twitter and Facebook, especially in times of an emergency, when people want facts rather than wild rumours.
Microsoft has released Vine in limited beta within the Seattle metro area. Current users can invite their friends and family to join them on the beta test by printing a postcard from the Vine site.