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Famster, a private MySpace for your family

Family networking site, fresh out of public beta, hopes to connect families on the Web. may be great to keep in touch with your friends. But when it comes to family, one may want a site that is more secure and a little less slimy. A closed-networking site, Famster, which came out of public beta last month, hopes to become your family's virtual home on the Internet. Although there are a vast number of things to highlight on the site, the five following features are the cream of the crop:

1. Photo and video uploads: What would a family site be without a visual media exchange? On Famster, you can upload an unlimited number of photos with no size constraint. That is a nice change from the photo sites with strict parameters. Users are also allowed 1GB of encoded video space, and 1GB of space in the file cabinet for documents and the like.

2. Recipe book: Most social networking sites integrate blogs (Famster included), but this site also has a recipe book. If your family is anything like mine, food and authentic recipes are a big deal. With the Famster recipe book, you can share recipes and add to the already populated database.

3. Building a virtual home: One of the fun parts of playing with Famster was making my own avatar and the virtual home for the family. The avatar customization tools are detailed, and the themes for the online house are diverse, from holiday settings to artsy photographs to the traditional brick-and-mortar abode.

4. Instant messaging: This feature was just added this week and is expected to be a parental favorite. The administrator of the account can monitor additions of friends, activate chat logging and review chat logs. Famster chat aims to provide a safe place for young family members to chat with cousins or other friends in different Famster networks.

5. Family tree and calendar: The Famster virtual family tree is a sweet way to preserve your ties to the past and get the whole family involved. Another way is by using the shared calendar. Administrators and members can add notes to dates on the calendar, which could be useful for announcing events like weddings or birthday parties.

For the aforementioned reasons, Famster has a lot of promise to become a popular family networking site. Safety seems to be its chief concern, which may help and harm the site's success. The fact that it offers a sex offender look-up may be helpful, but that feature also adds a touch of stark reality to this fun family site. In any case, if you have family all over the place, Famster may be the way to reconnect with loved ones and get on the same page.