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Article updated: 7/9/2013 5:43 AM

Gurnee to offer private social media for neighborhoods

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Gurnee has linked with a San Francisco-based company to offer private social media in village neighborhoods so residents can share useful information.

Officials began pursuing the formal relationship with Nextdoor.com in early March after receiving positive feedback from the Providence Village homeowners association, which created an account with the company on its own.

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Nextdoor offers an opportunity for every neighborhood to have a password-protected social networking website meant for the exchange of information such as recent criminal activity, lost pets, school activities and community watch meetings.

Gurnee officials can direct messages to a specific area over Nextdoor, Gurnee management analyst Erik Jensen said, but they won't have access to what neighbors are posting unless it's in response to something the village sent.

Jensen said Nextdoor is free to village government and residents. The village last week became the first Illinois municipality to go live with Nextdoor, now in all 50 states and at least 15,000 neighborhoods.

"We're really excited to see where this will go," Jensen said Monday.

Nextdoor doesn't have photo sharing or status updates, so, unlike Facebook, users can't see images of the food their neighbors are eating or know what games they are playing.

Members must post using real names and addresses. Access to resident information supplied to Nextdoor is not supposed to be available through any search engines.

Gurnee has created 31 neighborhoods for the social network. Residents must visit Nextdoor's website and use a complete address for verification to sign up before receiving an access code through methods including mail and landline telephone.

Providence Village homeowners association secretary Chris Miller said Nextdoor has "drastically increased" communication among residents in that subdivision south of O'Plaine Road and Washington Street.

Jensen said it's hoped Nextdoor enhances Neighborhood Watch programs established with the police department. Gurnee Police Chief Kevin Woodside has endorsed the neighborhood social network, saying it's another method for his department to transmit vital information.

Nextdoor spokeswoman Jennifer Harding said the company has relationships with more than 100 cities across the United States, with the largest being New York, Dallas, San Jose and San Diego.

She said recommendations account for about 26 percent of the online conversations, followed by civic issues with 22 percent, crime and safety at 20 percent, classifieds at 14 percent, events at 11 percent and other at 7 percent.

"We encourage our members and the leads of each neighborhood to post and share information that is relevant, respectful and helpful to neighbors," Harding said. "Often, this includes recommendations on local businesses. If at some point a post becomes inappropriate or abusive, the leads of the neighborhood can remove the post."

Nextdoor has reported having enough venture capital to take it to 2016. The company plans to operate past the venture funding by having an advertising-based business model.

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