Virb is the new social network in town, but is it better than the rest?
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Virb is a new social network launched yesterday by the same people who created indie-band publicity site PureVolume. Virb has been in private beta since late last year and is now open for anyone to join. Similar to most new social networks these days, Virb has a clean and slick look, quite contrary to social networking juggernaut MySpace. Virb is gunning to be the do-it-all network. Where MySpace focuses on music, Virb does that, but tacks on group sections for photography, fashion, sports, and writing too. The problem is that both the site and the content aren't there yet.
Similar to Trig, which I wrote about in January, Virb promises to provide everything to everyone without fulfilling a way to do it. It's the "if you build it, they will come" mentality that's not necessarily a bad thing to have with a social network, just disparaging when you click on a link with no content on the other end. As it stands, clicking on many of Virb's group areas takes you to a placeholder page. The two sections that are up as of me writing this are music and videos. Both of these sections work well and have some really great content--music in particular, which has themed band pages with downloadable tracks that look more like something on the iTunes Store than a social network. The team definitely pulled some design cues from Purevolume, but that's a good thing.
Profile and friends management on Virb work like they do on other social networks, with some extra bells and whistles. There are a lot of sections to fill out, but not really a way to create your own look and feel, short of posting your own CSS in the page, something I'm betting most people don't know how to do. Virb does employ a slick drag-and-drop content editor similar to Ning, which lets you drag different content modules around the page. This is a supereasy way to organize how others will view your profile content.
As far as adding and messaging friends goes, you're given an in-box and various ways to view friend activity. If you've done it on MySpace or Friendster, you know the drill. Virb takes a cue from Facebook's newsfeed with its friend activity module. This shows you any new content your friends have added or other changes to their profiles.
The one thing that really separates Virb from the social networking pack is VirbTunes. VirbTunes is a small plug-in for iTunes that keeps track of your music tastes and automatically uploads them to your Virb profile. The service also pulls in recommendations of your listening habits, including when the band might be visiting nearby. It's nearly identical to Mog, which we covered a couple of months ago.
Virb is a social network to keep an eye on. At this point it's really hard to judge what works and what doesn't, since a lot of the site isn't up to scratch yet. That being said, Virb has a definite direction. Where other new and pretty social networks like Trig and MingleNow have shown promise with specialized uses, Virb seems to have the content and style to back it up. Whether or not it's enough to attract users is still to be seen.