New social network: Detail-light, irony-heavy?

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011

Temptation, thy name is Hipster.

In the past 48 hours, some 10,000 people have signed up to join the new social networking site Hipster at

Hipster is . . . Nobody knows what Hipster is. Right now it is an empty page that reads "Hipster" in front of a bland city vista (New York or San Francisco, depending on which version you've searched for). "Something cool is coming," the site says, but it doesn't say what, and neither does the founder, who was reached by telephone Friday.

"You come to this page, and you see a big, beautiful picture of your city, so clearly it has something to do with your city," Doug Ludlow said coyly. "I think we might have perfected the viral 'Coming Soon' page."

Ludlow said that he could not reveal details about his project because he's hoping it will be a featured start-up at an upcoming conference in California. On Thursday and Friday, Twitter users hunted around for details and bragged to their friends that they had signed up for a site that no one knew the purpose of.

Would it be an ironic site? Ironic like, in which people in skinny jeans roam around beautiful architecture, plagued with ennui? Because that might be a site worth joining. Or would it be earnest? Is it possible that all of the self-identified hipsters of the world are being lured to as part of a cruel joke, a Michael Cera-shaped bomb that will detonate once everyone is in the same room?

Hush. The time for speculating on the site's purpose is never. It is more prudent to get there first, to beat the rush of the virtual land grab that happens whenever a new social network plops into the overcrowded market.

"It's always fun to be on the search for the next big thing," e-mails Victor Passarella, a college student who has signed up for the site. "Especially in this day and age where it could be huge, but only for a week . . . with Facebook on what could finally be the downfall, I'm hoping Hipster will take its place."

Determined (or even mostly sober) Googlers could easily search their way to a description of the site from an alpha test version launched in Boulder, Colo., last fall. The description makes it sound like a cross between Yelp and question/answer aggregator Quora. It does not address the potential mortification of belonging to a site called "Hipster."

"I think it's lost its pejorative sense," Ludlow says, explaining that he chose the name simply because it was easy to spell and remember. (But he had to know, right, that Chloe Sevigny will cut him if he goes too far?)

"You're not going to get anything new with Facebook," he says. "You're not going to get anything with Google."

He promises that you will get new things with Hipster, even if they are new-used things that you picked up at Goodwill for three dollars and paired with a fedora and a vintage concert tee.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company