Oh my Godspace.

How’s that for starting a post about a Christian social network by walking that fine line right off the bat?

Godspace, based in Englewood, is a social network for Christians that launched in “beta” recently. Given the name, you might expect to see yet another Myspace clone full of religious folks. But really, this is more of a community/start page for Christians. Sure, it has some of the usual social networking features. But it’s also a place where you can base your activities on the web by bringing in your favorite content and having that appear next to suggestions for connections to people, movies, scripture, etc. To me it feels a bit like a Christian Netvibes gone Myspace.

The site is all Ajaxed up, giving you the ability to drag and drop content around Netvibes style. That’s cool, but I’d actually say the site is in more of an “alpha” type state than a beta. It’s painfully slow, which the founders attribute to the recent addition of a new Ajax framework and the youth of the site. It’ll get faster, or it won’t be around. In addition, many of the features “work” in the sense that they do something, but not anything particularly useful. For example, I added a content area for “Digg” but it just sat there, looking empty. Other features were non-obvious, such as the fact that until I entered my zip code which was buried in my profile somewhere, I got no suggestions for nearby friends (it should probably get my location up front to be immediately useful). Profiles are pretty sparse so far. I’m sure the site will evolve but just know that if you check it out right now, you’ll have to be very comfortable in the early adopter role. This is not news to Godspace founder Eric Lanier who told me “We’re pretty much set on the back end. Right now we simply need more features before we really see the utility for the user.

I wanted to learn a bit more about the long term vision of the site. I asked Eric to tell me more.

“Our mission is to blur the line between “online” community and “offline” community… If we know our audience is Christian, we know they will likely be interested in mission trips. And, with an audience of thousands, or millions, it would be easy to find the 10-15 people you would need to go to a poorer region of the country, or world, and help with some humanitarian efforts and you could find those people in 10 different cities in the USA, whereas before you are limited to just your own church, city or if you’re lucky, state, to find volunteers for such projects. The same principle applies to a concert in Chicago. If we have thousands of users in Chicago, we have a captive audience to market a Christian concert to. From a user’s perspective, if I am starting a prayer group for my area but want it to grow, I can put it up on GodSpace and invite people in, let people know when we are meeting.” – Founder, Eric Lanier.

Godspace competes with sites like Holypal, MyChurch.org, and Xianz and has raised some angel scale money from investors such as G-Capital Management in order to do so. Larry Harms of G-Capital gave me some rationale for this investment.

“We chose to invest in GodSpace for two reasons, one we felt there was a real need in the social networking space for people of faith to go without all of the problems that are being experienced at other social networking sites. Plus, the vision for GodSpace expands beyond the social network to fulfill the need Christians have to find information and community in their area. By providing this capability, we saw a great purpose and value to the community in GodSpace. By helping to form a real offline community we think GodSpace can fill voids by easily coordinating and announcing service projects, promoting non profit initiatives and bring a personal aspect back to the medium of social networking technology.” Larry Harms, G-Capital Management

I’ve talked quite a bit on this blog about the concept of vertical social networks and how others such as YourRunning, YourCycling, Thoos and now Godspace represent this trend in Colorado. Clearly GodSpace falls into the public good category, and for this if nothing else I wish them the best of luck. It’s interesting how people are taking social networks, which have largely become a commodity, and shaping them around very specific interests to drive change in the world or to create a very targeted community to monetize. It makes me wonder if maybe Ning does make a bit of sense after all.

file under: Blog, Startups