Microsoft is launching Vine today as a limited beta in Seattle only. It’s an interesting local/social communications and information tool that plays in the same sandbox as both Twitter and Facebook, and also competes to a degree with online news sites.
Vine is Windows-only software that’s intended to sit open on your desktop so that users can keep in touch with people, events, and news happening around them. Microsoft is providing printable invite cards so users can get more out of the app by having friends and family in the beta, as well.
Vine’s dashboard shows a map of your area and the current status of contacts also using Vine. There are additional screens to let users send reports or alerts, although the current documentation isn’t too clear on the difference between those options.
To some degree, existing tools like email, Twitter, and Facebook have become the default way we send out updates to friends, family, and others in our network. Vine users can send alerts and reports via the software, text message, or email, and the fact sheet seems to suggest that the app will be expanded in the future to allow updating via other services.
An application that can connect with other social services, allow both sending and receiving of data to and from those services, pull in local news from media outlets and other feeds (like local blogs, say), and add local context to all of that data in the form of mapping … now that could become a very compelling tool.
The Seattle Times reports that Microsoft’s current focus is on getting local government and emergency management officials to use the tool to broadcast important updates during disasters and other major events. Vine, the article says, is launching with data feeds from more than 20,000 media outlets and public safety organizations such as the NOAA and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Vine is free for individuals at the moment, although Microsoft says on the Vine FAQ that “organizations and individuals will be able to purchase additional services in the future.” The Seattle Times adds that future Vine betas are planned for two other unnamed areas — one in the Midwest, and one island community.
There’s more Vine discussion on Techmeme.