July 21, 2008

Evite Gets Facelift

By Scott Duke Harris, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

Jul. 18--Internet tycoon Barry Diller recently likened Facebook to a "Princess phone"- a communications fad. But now one of Diller's biggest brands, Evite, is reinventing itself as a competitor in the social network arena with help from Silicon Valley companies.

Waiting in the wings: an Evite application for Facebook.

Evite, part of Diller's IAC empire, is planning to unveil its new look and social tools in a splashy debut next week. The timing roughly marks Evite's 10th anniversary, but company officers told the Mercury News in a briefing Friday that is only coincidence -- that a radical overhaul was in the works.

"What Evite has done is wrap a social network around the online invitations," said Khris Loux, founder and chief executive of JS-Kit, a valley company that provides polling and message boards for the new Evite. Flickr and Plaxo are also involved in the Evite revamp. "This is Evite taking a giant step forward to becoming a Web 2.0 company," Loux said.

Online business mavens say it's about time. Evite, while still used by millions of people, has become regarded as an Web 1.0 plowhorse that has failed to keep up with thoroughbreds like Facebook and MySpace, known for their use of rich media and interactive features. Evite's turf has also been challenged by "local planning" sites such as Center'd, MyPunchBowl and Socializr.

Evite general manager Rosanna McCollough said "internal whiteboarding" on the overhaul began about a year ago, and the

last six months were spent on development.

While younger Internet companies swiftly adapt to user reaction and frequently add features and fine tune their services for consumers, Evite's underlying technology needed to be rebuilt to accommodate the changes, said Erik Kellener, Evite' vice president of technology. The Facebook "widget" application is in the works, Kellener said.

Diller's New York-based conglomerate also includes Ask.com, Ticketmaster and several other brands. He made the Princess phone comment in May at the Wall Street Journal's "All Things D" conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal. The next day, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg presented conference host Kara Swisher with a genuine pink Princess phone.


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