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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

Services Help Social Networks Get Connected

By Leslie Walker
The Washington Post
Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page F06

Two new Web services launched last week that aim to help people tap their friends for tips about where to eat, shop and play.

On Thursday, the event-planning service Evite (www.evite.com) unveiled a redesigned site that lets people create electronic networks of friends to share recommendations about eateries, nightclubs and other hangouts. Evite partnered with Citysearch to get local business listings; both companies are owned by Barry Diller's InterActive Corp. (Diller serves on The Washington Post Co.'s board.)



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Evite's makeover is part of its drive to become the Internet's Union Station of social planning. President John Foley said that over the past six years, the site has amassed 66 million e-mail addresses from folks who sent or received invitations through Evite. Users also have created more than 1 million personal profiles since Evite introduced that feature this year; Foley said those profiles include 1.5 million restaurant recommendations.

The new changes let Evite users quickly see what their friends are recommending. "People are still wanting to go to their trusted relationships to find information," Foley said.

The day before Evite's update, San Francisco-based Yelp made its debut. The site (www.yelp.com) focuses tightly on helping users get info out of their pals; its spartan home page presents a simple query box for entering a request for information, plus the e-mail addresses of friends who might know.

Yelp forwards each request and presents results in a list that users can browse or search. If friends don't reply, Yelp can nudge them to cough up their opinions and seek recommendations from friends of friends.

Both services reflect the second wave of attempts to find the elusive magic formula for online social networking. Dozens of networking sites launched in 2003, but so far, none has been a runaway hit.

New Travel Sites Check In

As if enough Internet travel agents weren't already clamoring to help, two more travel Web sites have arrived. Kayak and Mobissimo Travel are more search services than agents, since they don't book flights and instead hand you off to sites that do. Norwalk, Conn.-based Kayak, created by executives from several other large travel sites, lets people search more than 60 different travel sites, showing prices for about 550 airlines and 85,000 hotels. Mobissimo, based in Mountain View, Calif., covers about another 20 sites and includes more international travel information. Both sites are in a beta-test stage.

www.kayak.com

www.mobissimo.com

A Notable New Music Site

Many musicians buy their sheet music as digital files instead of driving to the store. The Digital Music Notebook offers them a new shopping option -- customers can browse and buy sheet music by genre, artist, theme or even degree of playing difficulty. The service is a joint creation of Yamaha Digital Music Interactive and the Sibelius Group, a music software company.

For $4 a tune, musicians get sheet music in a multimedia format that allows three printouts. Using free Sibelius software, they can also rearrange the song and view the score graphically, showing finger positions and notes on a keyboard or guitar fretboard.

www.digitalmusicnotebook.com

E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.


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