Social Software Review Part 3: Ryze

Somewhere between a collection of discussion forums and a networking site, the focus at Ryze is on making contacts through shared interests. It is not dissimilar to The Well.

Ryze is one of a growing class of software that allows you to manage your social network online and to use this network to make new contacts. Different implementations of this idea have different focus on why you would want to make new contacts, and this is one in a series of articles that review the different offerings.

Ryze is unusually difficult to review as very few of its features are available without signing up for a paid account (currently listed at $9.95 per month). The basic premise is a mix between a community and a networking site.

We have argued that the two concepts are different. Communities are based on a shared interest while the foundation of social networks is shared contacts. That being said, there is obviously some overlap. You typically have contact with people who do the same sort of things as you: that’s how you meet them. These shared behaviors are close to shared interests, but the key difference is that most people have many interests, and it is exactly the social connections that cross interest groups that are the most important connections.

Ryze attempts a mix-and-match approach: you can contact people through the usual networking facility (ie by being introduced by a mutual friend or a mutual friend-of-a-friend) but you can also participate in the discussion boards. Currently, there are about 375 such discussion forums of Networks to use the Ryze term. These networks cover everything from writing to dating, from business start-up to hiking.

The founders focused on business networking to the extent that the FAQ suggests that the membership fee ($9.95 per month) may be an allowable businesses expense. However, of the 20 biggest networks on Ryze, only a little over half a dozen can be said to have a dedicated business focus. Ryze is perhaps closer to The Well in spirit.

The site is remarkably difficult to navigate and unlike LinkedIn it does not use encryption to transmit data.