A place on the Web for neighbors

A pair of Burlingame Web developers launched amission to connect locals last week by creating a smaller localized version of social-networking Web site Facebook that they hope will spread throughout the Peninsula.

Monti Majthoub and Marwan Shureih were walking around downtown Burlingame — loved by many residents for its “small-town” atmosphere — when they realized how easy it was for everyone in the small community to get lost in online networks such as MySpace and Craigslist.

They created a Burlingame-only Facebook group, but it did not yield much interest because everyone has so many friends and groups on expansive social-networking sites, Majthoub said. Two weeks ago, the duo, who run a file-conversion site, came up with the idea for burlingamesocial.com as a side project for people looking to meet up at a bar or find a tennis partner. One week later, they launched the site.

“My friend has 500 friends on MySpace, but he doesn’t know any of them,” Majthoub said. “I don’t want it to be like MySpace.”

To create the exclusive “club,” the pair will limit the site to 200 users while screening to ensure that contributors live or work in Burlingame. Only regular users can avoid being booted off the site.

Everyone on the site is connected and can create their own page, network with businesses and post comments, photos, videos, events and forum discussions.

“If you have nothing to do this week, you can go on [the site] and see what other people are doing,” Shureih said. “You can find a party and some cool people.”

They coined the slogan “Hold hands, not keyboards” to illustrate their desire to connect people in real life, as opposed to chatting online.

Angela Vereau, a Palo Alto teacher who lives in Burlingame, posted on the site to meet some locals at Nectar Wine Lounge for happy hour next weekend.

“The most attractive part of the whole thing is that they’re limiting it to Burlingame residents” and workers, Vereau said. “It’s kind of serendipitous because I was just thinking that I wanted to connect with more people who live locally.”

If the experiment proves successful, Majthoub and Shureih envision adding small, closed networks to other Peninsula cities and possibly even San Francisco and San Jose. Regardless of how big the site gets, however, the creators said the key is to maintain tiny online communities.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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