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MingleNow takes the party home...sort of

A new social network, MingleNow has basic features that closely resemble MySpace's, with functions reminiscent of Flickr and Yelp.

MingleNow is a new social networking site with basic features that closely resemble MySpace's, with functions reminiscent of Flickr and Yelp. The basic premise of MingleNow is that it gives members the tools to talk to one another online, then easily move that conversation to a local hot spot. It has a database of locations, and if an establishment isn't listed, a member can add it, at which time the location becomes the hub of its own group. From there, any MingleNow member can add comments or pictures specific to it.

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If members take pictures while they're out (of what is at their discretion), they can tag and upload them to their profile when they get back to a computer. The implementation needs development, though: You can't change tags once a photo is uploaded, and you can only upload one photo at a time. MingleNow has a dedicated page where you can clink glasses, pulled from members who have tagged their photos "clink."

As far as profiles go, MingleNow doesn't offer much that's different from what MySpace offers. You get the usual information panes, along with a member-selectable list of favorite friends that MingleNow calls your "entourage." There's also the capability to customize various design aspects using HTML, in case you need to make the background a blinding shade of yellow. We would have liked to see some bona fide profile-design editing controls, but much of the code that's out there for MySpace works with MingleNow, which makes it easy to get your page set up.

Unlike MySpace, music does not play a part of MingleNow. Instead the site is all about giving people an online spot to hang out that's away from where they actually hang out. On the flip side of that, local bars, clubs and restaurants can post events, specials, or announcements without having to print any paper marketing materials. Whether this is going to attract or dissuade users from joining groups is unclear. You can still add music tracks to your profile with third-party flash players, but you're unlikely to find any on the MingleNow network.

To reward loyal users, MingleNow has a VIP program that doles out points for Web site interaction. Inviting friends and commenting on pictures carry relatively low point rewards, but adding and tagging photos can net you VIP status quickly. The program's description says MingleNow plans to give VIP members exclusive access to MingleNow events.

We like the relatively clean and snappy interface of MingleNow. More importantly, we appreciate the fact that it can be surfed at work or around other people without punk rock tracks coming on and the resulting dirty looks. Everyone likes music, but does everyone like bars? Our only other question is whether or not people will ditch MySpace's music offerings and large community for the local pub.