Social networks are a dime a dozen these days–we have services for text-message sharing, photo sharing, location sharing, and
more. But while social media sites typically go after a younger generation of early adopters, a new service out Tuesday is
decidedly going after the opposite demographic.
Today, Barry Diller’s IAC unveiled Proust.com, a memory-sharing service targeting nostalgic seniors heading into their twilight
years. The private social network, named for French novelist Marcel Proust, is modeled after the “Proust Questionnaire,” and
designed to help family members and close friends tell their life stories. Like many services launching recently, such as Percolate,
Proust tries to solve the age-old issue of writing in the blank white box. That is, Proust helps facilitate content creation from
its users by creating topic prompts based on the “Proust Questionnaire.” Rather than leave sharing in the hands of otherwise un-
tech-savvy elders, Proust helps the process move along with questions: What is your most memorable birthday? When was your first
kiss? And so on. It’s like Quora, but for questions about your personal life. And you’re the only expert.
The idea came to cofounder and CEO Tom Cortese after his grandmother passed away. “I had just lost [her]–we watched her battle dementia, and there, it was just this process of seeing memories go by the wayside,” he recalls. “It was like, god dammit, there were so many stories I wish I knew about her life. What was it like growing up in Italy? What was it like going to an American school in the Bronx? When did you learn to drive? All these interesting tidbits that I wished I asked her [when she was alive].”
It’s a unique twist on a ubiquitious technology. Sure we’ve all had access to memory-sharing services–Facebook, for one–but
rarely have these services helped its users craft a status update or tweet or blog post.
“If you’ve ever had to write in a journal, you open it up and stare at blank pages–and then continue to stare at blank pages,” Cortese says. “What we set out to do was come up with a way to actually help you tell your story.”
But the real secret sauce of Proust is the various ways it enables users to tell their story. In addition to question-and-answer
prompt feeds, Proust divides your life story into a series of chapters–a digital autobiography, if you will, called “Storybook
View” that can be purchased by its users as an e-book or physical copy. The chapters can also be viewed on a map by location or on a timeline by milestones (first job, college graduation, etc.), offering a clever visual mechanism for telling one’s life story.
Proust will inevitably have a social graph unlike any other social network–likely an older demographic, of course, but one with an incredibly intimate social fabric that taps into the irresistible feelings of nostolgia. Consider it the “Benjamin Button” of social networks.
[Image: Flickr user Caro Wallis]