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Innovation & Startups

Will the CMU's Flashgroup be the next hot social media site?

Flashgroup is a new social media website with a purpose, a one-stop source for all your social media needs.

In beta now, the Carnegie Mellon spinoff is perfect for those who are feeling overwhelmed by the Internet, explains Carlos Guestrin, associate professor in CMU's Machine Learning Dept. The site offers not just a more streamlined user experience, but is a more profitable business model.

Guestrin and fellow CMU professor Seth Copen Goldstein founded Flashgroup, originally called GGideaLab, as a Project Olympus Probe. The startup recently received an undisclosed round of seed funding from New Enterprise Associates, which will enable the development of mobile apps.  

"Seth and I have been thinking of ways to address how people interact on the Web, which is the core of our technology," explains Guestrin, "The idea is to prioritize content in a highly unified way; all the content--social, email, personal, news and current events."

Registered users on Flashgroup are asked to link to their Facebook and email accounts (Twitter is coming soon).  The website then generates a series of bubbles that rise slowly to the top of the right side of the page, containing new content including breaking news and recent posts to your accounts.

Click on a rising bubble and the full text of an article appears on the left. Flashgroup is designed to balance exploration and exploitation, says Guestrin, becoming more personalized with use so users are eventually attracting the news, information, coupon offers and advertising that most interests them. (Hence the business model).

It works especially well with current events, allowing users to follow discussions and post comments with others who are tweeting and posting on several sites at once, says Guestrin.

"We don't think anybody has successfully personalized the social space, though there is a real need for it," says Guestrin. "I want to build something useful that fulfills this need."

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Carlos Guestrin, Flashgroup


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