San Francisco was flooded by Finnish companies last week. They’ve teamed up to organize a meeting at the uber-hip restaurant Foreign Cinema to meet with well-known web professionals as Loic le Meur, Scott Rafer and Howard Rheingold. Boris and me were there and really enjoyed meeting all these ambitious entrepreneurs who prove that Finland’s technology industry consists of more than just Nokia. This week I’ll highlight some of the companies, starting with XIHA Life. This is the world’s first multilingual social network, targeted at people living outside their home country.
Howard Rheingold speeching during Finnish meet-up
Juhani Polkko, VP Business Development, told me users can select not only their native language, but as many languages as they understand or want to learn, and the content on the site is filtered based on the preferences. So imagine that you’re an English-speaking person from Germany and have a friend in France. When you check out his profile, you’ll only see the English content on his site. The French comments and messages have been filtered out.
I like the idea of their service, as learning other languages or keeping up with the ones you speak a bit are valuable assets. Moreover, the numbers of languages they offer is impressive (see below). Though I’m slightly disappointed Polkko and his team have built another social network. Why didn’t they create an overlay service on top of existing social networks?
Polkko: “We are initially building a niche social network and target the people who have the natural need to use multiple languages in their everyday life, like expatriates and exchange students. The next step is to create mash-ups for content from other social media websites and apply our language recognition and filtering algorithms. This is somewhat limited because you would need to build the algorithms inside other networks such as Facebook, but they can be applied to all the content which is available through open APIs and XML-feeds, or other content which the users own the rights to.”
So whether you like XIHA or not, these Finnish guys do offer us a glimpse of the possibilities when social networks adopt open standards. We could filter out content we don’t understand and use every network in our own language – without excluding other people. Let’s hope it’s not an utopia.