Social media on the Internet has become a staple in the everyday life of college students around the globe. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have created an entirely new social culture, one that can function even if the communities making it up are separated from one another, either by blocks or by thousands of miles. The days of snail mail and extended phone calls have given way to an entirely new generation of human interaction. People who live on opposite hemispheres of the globe can speak face to face through webcams hiding on the bezel of almost every new computer monitor. The rise of Internet socialization has even begun to have an effect on the languages people speak, with acronyms and paraphrases making up a bulk of online communication.
The ability to interact and share with friends online is an exciting tool, and opens up a slew of opportunities to those who embrace it and can use it effectively. However prominent social media may become, it is difficult to deny that communication in front of a laptop monitor is not quite as meaningful as the interaction between two people taking up the same space. Also, customizable profiles have made it easier than ever to create an entirely new persona to represent you if what you have to offer up in reality isn’t quite enough. This is probably why meeting people on the Internet is considered a social taboo, and is reserved to online dating sites which also carry a social stigma.
Enter Fipeo: the brainchild of Jeff Lucas, senior and business administration major. What is slowly becoming an online social statement was conjured up by Lucas and Tom Hogue, who has become Lucas’ business partner in FacedYou, the company overseeing the development of Fipeo. Lucas and Hogue met during a semester at sea program through the University of Virginia. What was originally a discussion of the Internet as a language learning tool quickly became a business opportunity in the increasingly competitive field of social media websites. The bold venture that they have embarked on is called Fipeo, and when it goes live, it has the potential to redefine how people communicate online.
Lucas and the Fipeo team imagine an online community where meeting and interacting with people online isn’t considered “creepy,” a stigma which has haunted online relationships since the inception of online socialization. Fipeo is designed to create an environment in which people can meet and interact face to face on the web in both a personal and professional environment.
It’s hard to imagine a site which combines the benefits of a powerhouse such as Facebook with the video capabilities of Skype while keeping an interface as clean-cut as Google +, but Fipeo does a good job of showing the world what such a site would look like. Fipeo is entirely video-based, and includes almost no written interaction between users anywhere on the site. While this may deter some people who have grown accustomed to hiding behind their Facebook wall, it makes Fipeo’s mission for a new online social experience very clear.
When a user registers for the service, they are asked to record a 30 second video of themselves as their introduction to the Fipeo community. In these 30 seconds, users can give a brief description of who they are by stating anything, from where they live to what interests they have. However, any inappropriate content can be reported to Fipeo and is removed. Following the creation of this video, it is possible to create a separate video strictly for the business networking portion of Fipeo, which is kept sequestered from the personal portions of the site. This distinction between personal media and business is one that has previously been managed by using two different sites, such as Facebook alongside LinkedIn. Now, with Fipeo, users can have all of their content and contacts in one location, with personal and business only separated by the flick of a switch on the home page.
When users sign up for the service, they are asked to enter a number of “tags” which describe them. However, the tags and other descriptors used to define the account are never viewed by anyone but Fipeo’s strong social search algorithms which work to place the most compatible people on each other’s homepage. Then the socializing begins. From the homepage, users can browse a number of introduction videos recommended to them by Fipeo and, if a connection is desired, one user can send a “face message” to the other.
The face message is Fipeo’s take on e-mail, and is the main source of communication on the site. If users want to share their other information with each other, they can do so through video chats or face messages. No external communication is organized by Fipeo. This social organization also allows users to have unlimited control of their privacy, since what they say to another user is the only form of communication. There is no profile where any amount of contact information can be gleaned. Considering the recent settlement of Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission concerning user privacy, this new way of controlling information may give Fipeo a competitive advantage, especially for people who have concerns about online privacy.
Fipeo is a bold statement in today’s world of communication, where what you see on the Internet might not be exactly an honest representation of the person you’ve imagined. In a society where face to face contact has been overpowered by the growing presence of impersonal device-based communication, Fipeo dares to create something different. While it seems like a radical change for many young people who have grown up in an almost exclusively digital environment, it really is a simple regression to how humans have been communicating since the dawn of humanity.
Visit www.fipeo.com to try it for yourself.