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Virtual family fun with FamsterCNET News.com's Neha Tiwari takes a hands-on approach to Famster.com, a new closed-networking site that aims to create a place where families can connect. The site has photo/video uploads, avatars, recipe books, blogs and more, plus security features...
>> In this day and age almost no one stays in one place anymore. Email has made keeping in touch a little easier, but there still is no replacement for quality time. A new site called Fanster [assumed spelling] hopes to make a virtual home for your family to stay connected. Will I call Fanster my home sweet home? Let's find out. Like most sites, the first thing you have to do is register. The person who initially registers will become the administrator and gatekeeper for the family account, so you may want to make sure that it's a parent or a central family member. The first prompt details how to pick a theme. This'll be the virtual place where your family's avatars will live on the web. One of the fun and more web 2.0 features of Fanster is the option to make your avatar. I found their tools to be similar to those on Second Life, basically meaning that they were very detailed from picking your mouth shape to body type. There were also an array of age groups represented. I don't think I've ever seen an elderly or baby avatar, but it definitely makes sense for this site. One of the best parts about hearing from your nearest and dearest is getting photos and videos. On this site you have unlimited photo uploads, and you can even organize them into cute little scrapbooks. Another thing that's available is one gigabyte of free space for video, and one gigabyte of space available in the filing cabinet. On Fanster relatives can also write blogs and manage a shared calendar. This could prove to be useful if you have a big event coming up in your household, like a wedding, retirement, or birth. Another notable feature is the recipe section. Here you can not only access a number of recipes in the Fanster system, but also add in your own to share. There's a place on the site where you can make a family tree which can be viewed and edited by your Fanster members. The archiving of recipes and availability of tools to construct a virtual family tree add a sense of traditional value to the site. A wholesomeness that I really enjoyed. The big difference between Fanster and other networking sites like My Space is that it's a closed network. This means that you can only talk to a certain few, which may be great for the younger members of the family. It's obvious when you log onto the Fanster site that child safety and security is their number one priority. In the lower left hand corner there's a space for finding sex offenders in your area. Once an address is entered, the member can not only find out how may sex offenders are in the specified region, but who they are and what charges they were convicted of. Other forms of security lie in their newly launched instant messaging element. Besides the added security features, it is similar to other chat programs, emoticons and all. If you have an internet savvy family, Fanster might be a great solution for you to stay close and organized. I like the video feature, but I wish there was a way to comment. The interface wasn't that intuitive, and I think the security features might be a little too much for some. In any case, check out Fanster, and see if it's right for you and your loved ones. [ background music ] For CNET New.com, I'm Neha Tuaray [assumed spelling].