Site Lets Techies Swap Beta Test Invites

The Associated Press
Monday, August 20, 2007; 12:36 PM

NEW YORK -- As many techies know, getting in on a hot new startup's invite-only "beta" test can be tough.

Some resort to posting pleas on their blogs, others beg friends of friends and _ as best illustrated with the slow rollout of Google Inc.'s Gmail service in 2004 _ some are even willing to purchase invites through eBay Inc.'s auction site.

But with the July launch of InviteShare, things might get a little easier for those aching to pass the online equivalent of the velvet rope outside the trendy nightclub.

InviteShare connects users who have or want access to new Internet offerings, including the online TV service joost and GrandCentral, a one-phone-number-for-life communications service owned by Google.

Although some sites open beta testing to anyone to raise awareness and work out glitches, many initially limit access to a select handful, creating a certain cachet through their scarcity.

Many Internet users, particularly the tech-savvy early adopters, clamor for access to such invite-only sites, considering them a peek into what could be the next best thing on the Web.

On InviteShare, users register for free and then submit their e-mail addresses to lists kept at the site for particular startups to which they want access.

Those with spare invites respond directly to individuals and are encouraged to give priority to users listed higher _ those who have done their part in the past to share similar invites.

The site tries to thwart spam by posting the address lists as image files, something more difficult for spamming software to grab for their marketing annoyances.

Created by Jeff Broderick, a computer programer and Web designer in Denton, Texas, the site was sold to tech news blog TechCrunch recently for $25,000.

TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington, tired of negotiating with startups for beta test invitations to pass on to his readers, said his company was already looking into creating a similar site when he discovered InviteShare. In fact, he wrote about the site on the TechCrunch blog before buying it.

As of Monday, InviteShare corralled more than 28,000 users, who collectively sent more than 34,000 invitations. Nearly 50 different startups had listings _ sometimes without the startup's blessing, though Arrington said he has yet to get a complaint.

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