When you meet someone new, a professional contact, a prospective employer, or even a new friend who’s just not ready to see your nature on Facebook, which website do you send them to? You could give them your Twitter page, but that only provides a snapshot of what you’re doing, sharing, and talking about right now. You could send them to your personal blog but, honestly, when was the last time you updated that? I’m sure your thoughts on the Lost finale were mind-blowing and elegantly-stated, but that’s old news, pal.
Enter RebelMouse, the social publishing platform that grabs your Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pics and displays them all on one attractive Pinterest-esque page. Founder and CEO Paul Berry (former CTO of Huffington Post) wants you to use it not just as an automated social dashboard, but as a full-fledged website with its very own domain name. And to prove it, his team will help you build one for free.
Because the site is still in beta, RebelMouse will not charge for powered domains. They’ll cost $12 a month, post-beta. Berry wants to build showcases of RebelMouse can do, he says. “We love having these practical concrete examples.” To get onboard, all you have to do is send an email to email@example.com. Our Adam Penenberg and Paul Carr already have.
One of the highest-profile “practical concrete examples” is CrunchScroll, a hub for TechCrunch’s social activity. Berry told me that TechCrunch’s Drew Olanoff reached out to RebelMouse on a Wednesday night, and less than 24 hours later, the site was ready to launch.
Custom domains are the beginning of RebelMouse’s new features. Yesterday, the company began allowing users to post longer excerpts of articles on their frontpage. It’s a small step, but one that signals the site moving in the direction of becoming a publishing platform for original content like Tumblr or WordPress, and not just a social aggregator.
“The problem with people’s blogs is, if they get the design right, which is rare, they still start to get embarrassed about how old the content is,” Berry says. ”The broken promise with the web was that their domain name should matter and that it’s easy to have a site that they love. But it’s way harder.”
Berry likens it to a scene from the film, The Jerk, when Steve Martin’s character explodes with joy after seeing his name in the phone book. Most people don’t have a phone book anymore, but Berry hopes RebelMouse pages can compete with other personal homebases like About.me and Vizify be the phone book’s digital equivalent: your outward face to the world.
Initially, I had some misgivings about RebelMouse which apply to social aggregation in general. After all, different content works better on different social networks. Your exploding cat GIF that was reblogged 5000 times on Tumblr might not go over so well with your Twitter followers who look to you to Tweet about the future of news. And that’s to say nothing of your IRL friends and family on Facebook who couldn’t care less about news OR cats. (What’s wrong with them… ?)
But Berry emphasizes that RebelMouse only publishes public Facebook posts and leans heavily on the 35% of Tweets that include links. Meanwhile, your witticisms and conversations go in a draft folder on RebelMouse, so if you have a particularly trenchant bon mot you’d like to plaster on your RebelMouse page, go crazy. It’s this ability to differentiate between editorial content and noise, while also offering a wealth of customization options, that helps set it apart from many other social aggregators in the field.
The other major misgiving I had is one Berry says his team is currently working on: making RebelMouse a place where users can interact with one another, as opposed to a static blast of social content. In other words, making it a true community, not just a site with a bunch of social media on it. This is something the aggregator Hypemarks has already done well by allowing users to comment directly on a person’s homepage. But Berry says Rebelmouse isn’t far behind. “We are working on things to make it more collaborative effort and make it more of a conversation.” Berry was coy on the details, but we’ll be keeping our eye out for these new social features. If RebelMouse can strike that sweet spot between social and original content, it won’t just be the About.me’s and the Vizify’s of the world that should consider themselves on notice, but also the WordPresses and the Tumblrs.