Web reviews: Friendster, Webflicks, Quickbrew, Dot Comics, Bookcrossing

Finding new friends on the Web

It’s not what you know, but who you know. A cliché, sure, but it’s true. The wider your social circle, the better your chances of hooking up with someone who can help you out. But what if you’ve called, e-mailed, met, followed up with, and all but sent singing telegrams to everyone you know on the planet, and you’re still coming up empty?

If the people at Ryze (www.ryze.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), and other social networking sites have anything to say about it, your next step — or better yet, your first — will be to fire up your browser and start schmoozing. At least a dozen new networking sites with names such as ZeroDegrees.com, Tribe.net, and Spoke.com have cropped up in the past year alone.

Like Friendster (www.friendster.com) — the breakout hit in social networking — the sites are based on the “six degrees of separation” principle (that’s right, the same one that places actor Kevin Bacon at the centre of humanity).

Here’s how it works. You join a site by creating a personal profile that includes whatever information about yourself you want to share with untold numbers of strangers — er, fellow members of the site.

The next step is to e-mail your friends and associates, inviting them to set up their own profiles. Each person who accepts your invitation to join then becomes a member of your personal network, and thus is one degree away from you. As the members of your network solicit their own friends and colleagues to join, your network grows exponentially.

Many sites offer free memberships, although a few are vague about their plans to charge for future service, and some already charge a small fee — typically, about $US10 a month — for services including more-advanced search features or an expanded member list. Before you send your personal stats anywhere, read the site’s privacy statement and user agreement (or terms of service).

There’s little doubt that the Internet is an ideal networking tool. If you’re careful about the sites you use and thoughtful about the connections you make, you might find that in your next job search, your browser is your best friend.


Does your local video store never seem to have the DVDs you want? Perhaps you want pay TV but it’s not available in your area? Webflicks has a possible solution to these problems. For a monthly subscription fee ($38.83) you can borrow as many DVDs as you like from this site. DVDs are sent to you through Australia Post (no postage is charged) and a return paid envelope is supplied so you can send them back. The site is currently offering a two-week free trial to see if you like the way it works before committing the dollars.


This site is actually designed to sell tea in the UK, but it has some fun features that others can enjoy (even latte drinkers). The theme is gossip and there are lots of fun diversions like e-cards and fridge magnets (you arrange the words to create a scandalous message on a fridge). The highlight is the pseudo-tabloid you can create under “Dish the dirt”. Use your friends’ antics and the silly pics provided to design a scandal rag front page — then e-mail it to them.

Dot Comics

If you thought fast-paced console games had killed off comics, think again! Now you can enjoy classic comic fun by Marvel at this site. There’s a free section and members-only material (but it’s free to register). As you’d expect, it’s not exactly like reading a paper comic: the Flash versions step you through the story and you get useful extras like a side panel that allows you to click on characters to get more details. So what are you waiting for? The adventures of The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Spiderman and co await!


If you love a book, should you set it free? That’s the idea behind Bookcrossing. After you’ve read a book the site would have you register an ID for it and then leave it “in the wild” (in a café, on a train, etc.) so someone else will find and enjoy it. Hopefully, that person will read the label you’ve carefully crafted for the book so they know to go to Bookcrossing to update the info on that book. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t hear about your book after you’ve released it. The site’s creators stress that the project is in early stages and only about 20 to 25 per cent of books are “caught” (when someone adds a journal entry).