IDEA & OPPORTUNITY > Ridesharing with a social twist
One of the problems with traditional carpool matching sites has been the anxiety most people feel when faced with the prospect of sharing a car with someone they don't know. By tapping into the power of social networking, however, a few companies on both sides of the Atlantic are making that problem go away. In the US, Zimride and GoLoco have both gotten a fair bit of attention recently for harnessing social networking platform Facebook to arrange shared rides. By combining the ride-matching function with the reassurance of perusable user profiles, such sites eliminate much of the fear that can come up when people try to find rides anonymously.
In the UK, meanwhile, isanyonegoingto.com launched in April incorporating its own social networking component. Users register their name and town or postcode, and then add a photograph of themselves and/ or their vehicles and a short description of themselves. They also pick one of three categories that suits their travel needs best-leisure, business or student-and enter their travel requirements. Other members can then search the site and communicate through Skype or e-mail to arrange travel and divide the costs before meeting. Over ten thousand members have already registered with the free site.
Founder Sonia Slater explains: "Our fundamental objectives are to realize how we all can be environmentally sound and still have fun, improve the environment by reducing the number of cars on the roads, use the Internet to introduce travelers and change the way we travel." The advertising-supported site hopes to go global in 2008, and is seeking partners with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility to help. Meanwhile, it provides a nice example of how social networks can overcome the barriers that keep real-world consumers apart. One to bring to other parts of the world?