October 26, 2011; Source: New York Times | The San Francisco Company has launched a social networking site specifically for neighborhoods called Nextdoor. Whether for the purpose of borrowing a lawnmower, getting a recommendation of a local doctor, or complaining about some neighborhood annoyance or another—Nextdoor gives users the opportunity to create a private online community where neighbors can reach out and communicate. Nextdoor has been managing an invitation-only assessment of its services for the last year and now has accumulated members totaling in the thousands.

Nirav Tolia, chief executive and co-founder of Nextdoor, says they aim to do away with the anonymity of other similar sites and instead build up the trust level. All members are required to use their real names, and anyone joining a neighborhood network must live in it. Nextdoor has several methods of residence verification, including sending a postcard in the mail with a code to enter on the site.

Nextdoor intends to strengthen ties between people who can greatly benefit from knowing one another. Neighbors rarely communicate, but knowing your neighbors makes a healthier and safer community. “We didn’t see a social network for what we believe is one of the most meaningful communities of all,” said Tolia.

Combining local neighborhoods with social media could be a great way to create innovative community engagement. But will Nextdoor bring out the hostility in the community, singling out the old man down the street who never shovels his sidewalk? And how will Nextdoor regulate the site to make sure productive and positive conversations are materializing?—Aine Creedon