Showtime and various folks behind The L Word have launched OurChart.com, a social networking site for queer women based around a story line of character Alice's web of "hookup" connections linking women through their different relationships. It's like The L Word meets Six Degrees of Separation on MySpace, and just to bring it full circle, the Web site then became a story line.
So is OurChart a useful social network or just a bald-faced marketing ploy? Seemingly rushed to production, the site notably lacks the networking features that the show's characters promote, an immense disappointment to anyone who goes to the site after hearing the stars rave on about it. In its current state, it offers exclusives, podcasts, and "insider" info about the show but is basically nothing more than another fan site, albeit one that promises users the future creation of a visual web of your OurChart friends.
Sure, it's got some well-known contributors, such as tech columnist Kara Swisher from the Wall Street Journal and stars of the show that spawned it, but the real question is, can it survive in its goal to be a niche social network?
Wikipedia lists nearly 100 notable social networks already, and several of the more-focused ones, including Facebook and BlackPlanet.com, boast several million members. OurChart might be able to satisfy fans long enough for its network to launch, but that network will need members. Many potential members will already be turned off by the network-without-a-network launch, but I'm likewise sure that there are many rabid L Word fans out there who can't wait to gab with each other about the show. The site's success will ultimately be linked to the show's survival, which--for now--is a good thing, but doesn't seem like it bodes a long future for the network. The niche networks more likely to succeed are those that connect people through their daily lives and lifelong interests, not the hit show of the moment.
One thing's for sure, though. If they want to keep calling it a social network, they'd better build the network soon.