The UCSB student-created social networking site MySoapbox.org launched last week for the Isla Vista community’s use.
Co-founders Scott Antipa, a fourth-year math major, and Kyle Ibrahim, a third-year computational biology major, developed the website for users to anonymously send and receive messages and event invitations with members sharing similar interests. Antipa, Ibrahim and two other UCSB students spent several months working on the alpha version prior to last Thursday’s release and are currently working on an updated beta version.
According to Antipa, MySoapbox.org will function similarly to websites such as Craigslist and Twitter to addresses online interactions within the community.
“We are developing Soapbox to solve everyday problems you have with communication,” Antipa said. “As the site currently functions, you can get a message to all the users who live on your block or in your dorm. You don’t need to know these people, or even know that they exist; the point is to connect users who simply ‘know’ a bit about each other, such as their approximate location, age, sex, likes and dislikes, groups, etc.”
Ibrahim said the launch provided unique challenges that will help the team address future development issues.
“As the main developer for Soapbox, I’ve had the chance to work on a number of interesting problems ranging from expected complexities of building a real web application to doing intelligent location-based searching and filtering,” Ibrahim said. “Now that we’ve launched an alpha release we’re looking for another developer to join us this summer. It would be great to have someone with large-scale web application or experience in iPhone/Android development, as we hope to be quickly moving to the mobile market.”
The team noticed several common themes in user interactions on the site during its initial launch weekend. According to the group, MySoapbox.org members have primarily used the social networking site to invite fellow users to parties or ask for Fall Quarter teacher and class recommendations.
Antipa said MySoapbox plans to expand to address the community’s diverse needs as more people become aware of the website.
“Isla Vista is a great place to launch this type of technology,” Antipa said. “We are rapidly developing functionality to bring you more features and to scale the site to the rest of the world. Right now we are really enjoying watching how the users are figuring out all the various uses of the site, and we are still waiting to hear all the feedback everyone has for us. It’s an exciting time.”
Ibrahim said the team plans to venture into the cell phone market with downloadable applications.
“Once we go mobile, users can be walking around, sending and receiving [messages] based on their real time locations,” Ibrahim said. “This level of interaction is where we imagine the real benefits of our application are, as we can involve local businesses and advertisements in a truly novel way.”
Additionally, the group is planning several marketing techniques in the following weeks including leaving small soapboxes containing surprise objects around the university.
“I’m stoked for Soapbox and hope to see all the socially active people using it to their benefit on our campus,” MySoapbox marketer Yawar “Will” Palomino, a fifth-year philosophy major and former UCSB CalPIRG oceans coordinator, said. “Soapbox is very useful for organizations, and I can’t wait for students to use it to plan events, dates and gatherings.”
The team said they are closely monitoring the site for possible improvements and recommend users to send them feedback to help improve the social networking tool.