Back in 2007, MySpace was still formidable competition for Facebook, and Friendster was going the way of the pager (“pager,” i.e. a small electronic device assigned to a telephone number which alerted device-holder that a person was attempting contact; holder could then respond using one of those pay-phoney-thing-a-ma-jigs). Also in 2007, Twitter was but a fleeting twinkle on the net, and Brady Becker was just some hipster nerd in Denver, quietly concocting a little thing called Brightkite. Once unleashed, however, Brightkite took flight.
Unlike the standard-issue social networks, Brightkite doesn’t cater to the generic hogwash to which othersÂ are prone. Closer to the up-and-coming Foursquare and the now-defunct Google acquisition Dodgeball, it’s a free, location-based networking site that’s also comparably sparse, user-friendly, and a superbly designed must-have communication tool.
Brightkite’s site is like a slap in the face for all of us networking zombies. Our eyes have literally adjusted to finding relevant areas on browsers. Brightkite’s homepage is so amazingly NOT complex, it literally makes you feel like the page must still be loading. (Coincidentally, as I write this, I am searching for â€œhomeâ€ on Facebook’s horrifically redesigned page. Facebook is sure as shit joining its predecessors; it’s only a matter of time before it becomes as tainted and overrun with crappy bands as MySpace). Brightkite’s site is simple, it’s clean, and with the absence of seizure-inducing advertisements, it’s totally inviting.
You “check in” when you land at the corner bistro/dive bar/after-party, and it automatically posts your location to your Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr account. Take a picture of the obese hippie wearing butterfly wings at Whole Foods in Union Square, then post it on Brightkite so we can all enjoy the image of a fairy guzzling a Kombucha!
Rocky: Hi Brady.
Brady Becker: Oh, hello there.
R: So, how did the idea to start Brightkite form? Did you get carpal tunnel from texting all your friends where you were all the time, or how did you get that bothersome carpal tunnel?
BB: The history of my wrist muscle ailments are off limits in this interview. As for the formation of Brightkite, there are two theories. The first was that Brightkite formed from molten lava. The 2nd theory was that a couple dorks wanted to create a social network that revolved mainly around places. It’s still a best kept secret.
R: Where does the name Brightkite come from? Was it the name of your first pet? And if so, what is the name of the street you grew up on so we can reveal your porn name?
BB: My first pet was a gerbil, Harry, and the street I grew up on was Redwood Drive. I had a bunch of other names picked for the website, such as: guesswhereiam.com, imhereandyourenot.com, and on and on, but those pesky domain squatters make finding a name that’s not yet owned quite challenging. Really, I always wanted to use a kite as the symbol for our network. A kite is something that goes where the wind takes it, but it is still attached to this shared ground. It’s also like a beacon, revealing your location for anyone below.
R: When people sign up for Brightkite, they have the option to link it with their other networks, I don’t see MySpace on there… is it an option or are you anti-MySpace? Did you and Tom have a run in?
BB: Tom and I are ex-boyfriends and we have an agreement to not discuss our legal agreements, but most of our users are Facebook users.
R: Well, I stopped checking MySpace about a year ago when it would take me an hour to go through the pages of bands and companies who wanted to be my friend. You have a totally different approach to friending and fan-making on Brightkite to ensure this won’t plague the site, yeah?
BB: The hassle of accepting faux friends is a cursed approach, you don’t know them and now every time they post something stupid or self-promoting, they muddle up the space which should be reserved for the people you actually want to get updates from. We’ve taken the approach of asymmetrical relationships – â€œfriendsâ€ are two people who mutually follow each other, while â€œfansâ€ are people who only follow you.
R: So, if I ask someone to be my friend, they then are automatically my friend, but unless they decide to do the same, I am just some fan of theirs!?
BB:Â Yes, you are correct.
R: Then maybe I don’t want to try and make friends just to be their pathetic fan. Can I still find out where the cool people are checking in?
BB:Â Well, sorta. If they have claimed you as a friend, you have access to their posts. But otherwise, users have the option to share their posts with just friends, friends and fans, or anyone.
R: So, then, would you say this would be an ideal network to join for jealous ex-girlfriends or stalkers?
BB: In my experience of stalking ex-girlfriends, I find the best method is to quietly relocate to their zip code and log their whereabouts until I feel comfortable breaking and entering. But using Brightkite to further your stalking career won’t get you too far. We have comprehensive privacy controls that were created and currently maintained by Paul Reuben.
R: Brightkite is all about checking in where you are, but when I joined I was at my mom’s house, and I couldn’t find that listed. What am I supposed to do if I want to check in when I’m not somewhere that Brightkite acknowledges? My mom’s house is one of my favorite places to go!
BB: Rocky’s mom’s house isn’t listed? That’s blasphemy! I will fire my staff tomorrow morning. No, really, if a spot isn’t in our database, add it! We depend on our users to keep us up to date with the best places to hit.
R: What’s the next bright idea? Some of the pics people post are pretty awesome, so why doesn’t Brightkite make a coffee table book of the best pictures? There is an abundance of the most amazing pics of food, what people are eating, sometimes phallic, sometimes mouthwatering, sometimes both. This could be good!
BB: Some of the things in the works focus more on places themselves. We will tell you where to find that gem of a coffee shop, the perfect piece of cake, where friends are going, who you should meet and what the baristas name is. But until then, we are working on something I just came up with – a coffee table book featuring the best food photos.
R: Yo, If you move on this idea without consulting me, this post will serve me well in court. Maybe we should have a business meeting.
BB:Â Ping me on my pager. If the meeting includes Burger-time, I’m in.