Black Planet introduced a few new features a few days ago, and re-announced some others that have been in the works. They included a Facebook-like feature that allows users to update their status, a revamped version of its chat rooms, and a news bar to that keeps readers updated on new content distributed through Interactive One and Blackplanet. Here is the low down on them:
The new chat comes with a fresh new design and easier ways to connect with other members. The names of the chat rooms are the same and you access just by clicking on any of the room links.
The big difference is that the new version is more interactive, stable and has a better design. We think you are going to like it!
The current chat is powered by a company called Chat Blazer and is Flash based. It has all the typical things you would expect from chat: rooms, etc. The chat also launches in a pop-up window for continued browsing. This chat feature is considered an upgrade however I am not sure how much of one since I am not familiar with the previous version. I am perplexed though as to why a more integrated IM client wasn’t used especially since Meebo has community IM now:
Status update is a new cool and fun feature that enables you to let everyone know what you are doing. Tell the world what you are up to and update your status as you are doing new things.
Everyone can see your status on your personal page or friend center and the new status update tab. Your friends can also comment on your status so you can have conversations with them.
If someone is not your friend they can read your status update but they will not be able to comment. Express yourself now by updating your status!
Ok while I really really like the effort and the fact that BP has status updates I have to say it is not intuitive. It is a good guess that most members of Black Planet also have either a MySpace or a Facebook page however the current status updates don’t interact anywhere close to how those do. Not saying that they should have “copied” but between MySpace and Facebook adoption why make it harder than it needs to be just in the name of being different. Users will interact with it more if it is a similar and familiar experience. The status updates could benefit from being threaded and displaying in a feed versus on a separate page, comments should then be on the activity not on page level. I’d also like to see status updates talk to or feed into other services like Facebook and Twitter and visa versa. In general as a social network they should consider implementing Open Social, Facebook Connect, or Google Friend Connect to leverage their user base’s social graph.
They rolled out with 2 new products:
BlackPlanet Mobile is an application that you download to your cell phone. Be on Blackplanet.com 24/7 with your mobile phone when you’re away from your computer! All you need is a regular cell phone with Internet access and you’re good to go.
You can view and send notes, invites and photos. You can check other members’ profiles and accept invites. You can also read and send comments and bulletins.
BlackPlanet Mobile is totally FREE but you may incur charges from your carrier. Please note that currently BlackPlanet Mobile doesn’t work on smart phones including the iPhone, Gphone, Blackberry or Sidekick. I have an iPhone so couldn’t try this out.
I wish atleast ONE of these large Black properties would seriously consider doing and Smart Phone apps, oh that’s right not many Black people use smart phones 😐
Get notified instantaneously when you get new notes and friend invites so you are always in the know and reachable. This service works on all cell phones and is totally FREE! You can manage your settings on your account preferences and choose how many alerts you receive every day.
Please note that you may incur some charges from your wireless service provider and you can cancel this service at any time through your service provider.
No need for me to try this service since I already know how annoying text messages can be from social networks. This is good for someone who likes to be notified in this way but I’d definitely pass.
Have you noticed the news bar on the home page? We added this feature to keep you up to date and informed on important stories that are impacting the community. Headlines are drawn from our sister sites that are part of the BlackPlanet Universe including The Urban Daily, News One and Hello Beautiful.
Links will take you to up to the minute stories that will keep you informed of all the top stories. We are also going to use this feature to update you on site changes and system maintenance. When we want to send you an important message the link will be yellow.
This is hidden nicely in the site, either that or it was just too early in the morning for me to find it when I looked. It is essentially a news ticker which I am never a fan of. I will say this implementation doesn’t bother me as much though because it is not scrolling and the user has to manually browse through the headlines; something that I like because it is on my own terms and I am not being force fed headlines.
On an overall note interesting updates however not compelling enough to bring me back as a BP user. If I saw more integration with some of the other networks that I am already on I’d consider it.