So, how often have you browsed through you list of Facebook friends and wondered, “Oh, are these my friends? I haven't spoken to them in years.” This is exactly what prompted Gokul Nath Sridhar, a nineteen-year-old student of BITS Pilani and his friends here to come up with the idea of Inu, a venture that they call a ‘social discovery website' that attempts to connect people based on their interests. “I realised I almost hated half the people in my friends list and many others did not even matter to me now. Why should you be friends with people just because you had them in school or you work with them now?” he asks.
Interests matter a lot and for entrepreneurs with an eye on the future, algorithms that help connect people with those who share similar interests can be the advent of the a new era of social networking. A civil engineer and also a bio-technology student of BITS Pilani, Gokul says he learnt the programming scripts and database languages to ensure the algorithms were very effective. That is when Mrudula Balachander and Shanti Kiran Nayak, both students of BITS Pilani came in to code and shape the nuances of their site. “The idea was to bring the best of all social networking sites together and take interest sharing to a different level,” says Shanti. For Mrudula, who ventured into the field of coding during her students days at PSBB, the project was a dream as “I got to learn a whole lot of new languages during the process.”
So, what is different about Inu. “When users sign up, they are expected to prioritize their interest areas, such as music, literature, art or politics. They can then post about their interests under various categories,” explains Gokul. An algorithm then searches for people who share the user's wavelength of thoughts and rates them according to compatibility into categories such as Excellent, Good, Fair, Bad and Terrible. Recommendations for the connection are then displayed on the user's home page, he adds.
For the past many months “it has just been either college or Inu for us,” says Shanti. Sembiyan Anbarasu, another student from the city who studies at National University of Singapore, assists them in framing marketing strategy for the website. There is also the odd innovation that might be of interest to social networking buffs.
“Friend Requests is a cliché. People will follow the ones they like and their information details will be visible only to them, to ensure there privacy,” says Gokul. Besides, if you have felt limited by placidity of ‘like' buttons, Inu offers you four additional options – love, dislike, hate and neutral.
“This is to know how much you feel about a certain issue. ‘Neutral' is for those issues we hardly care about or don't know much about,” Shanti explains.
Live next week
So is the group trying to pull a Mark Zuckerberg? “Well no, people tell us there is no need for one more social networking site when there are hundreds of others. But there is a reason why people get bored of them. Sometimes, there is not much you can talk with your existing friends,” explains Shanti.
The venture goes live next week but the group is quite confident about their idea. “Analysing sites and human behaviour, coding and testing every single aspect of the application, it has been challenging yet fulfilling journey for us. The idea is simple. Everybody you know is not your friend and people whom you don't, could be. It's time like poles attracted,” says Gokul.