What I found when I tried Nextdoor, the neighbourhood-based social network that just raised $110 million

Nextdoor, a neighbourhood-based social network, will announce tomorrow that it’s raised $US110 million in new funding. It’s now worth more than $US1.1 billion, according to the New York Times.

This seems amazing to me because I tried Nextdoor back in 2013 and found it pretty much useless.

I live in a part of San Francisco called Miraloma. It’s out of the way, and not much happens there.

But in 2013, we were pretty new in the neighbourhood. I’d recently met the founder of Nextdoor, Nirav Tolia, on a panel. The concept of a social network limited to your neighbourhood sounded like it might be a good way to meet people.

So I signed up. But there just wasn’t much happening there. It was mostly paranoid posts about strangers skulking around the neighbourhood, and people criticising each other’s parenting skills. I deleted it after a few weeks.

I know my wife still uses it from time to time, so I just called her up and asked her why.

She told me she finds it useful to keep on the pulse of crime in the neighbourhood — any time there’s a burglary, she’ll usually hear about it on Nextdoor.

She also said she’s tried to find babysitters and other vendors through it, but it’s never worked out.

One time, she tried to use it to set up a kind of rotating playdate for our son before he was in preschool. She met with indifference and snarky comments about how nice it must be that she didn’t have to work full time and put him in day care. She pretty much gave up after that.

This may say more about my neighbourhood than anything about the service itself.

But it seems that a neighbourhood isn’t a particularly useful scale for a social network. I just don’t want or need to know everything that’s going on in the few blocks around me.

The local businesses mostly have their own web sites, or at least a listing on Yelp. There’s a whole conflict going on between some of our neighbours and the San Francisco parks department about plans to chop down trees in a nearby park, but there’s a web site all about that, too — that’s how I found out about it. The school in our neighbourhood has a web site as well, and there’s a whole other web site full of unfiltered parents’ comments about it and the other schools in the city.

If I want to advertise items for sale or find recommendations for local vendors, a city-wide service like Craigslist, Angie’s List, or even Yelp seems like a better bet.

So I just don’t see how this turns into a billion-dollar business. It seems more like a social networking version of Patch, AOL’s ill-fated attempt at hyperlocal news.

If you have other experiences, I’d love to hear about them.

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