Instead of allowing users to follow individuals, Joota, which today announced it has secured $700,000 in funding, lets users curate content and follow specific areas of interest. Users can then network with individuals linked to that content.
The technology works by first allowing a user to switch on Joota using a bookmarklet. This makes content across the web clickable with a Joota icon, enabling the user to visit a news site, for example, click on a piece of content and create a Joota card.
This card is the starting point for bringing that content to the Joota platform and its community, and it also initiates a conversation thread focused around that piece of content.
Other people can view, follow, share, comment within or embed that card, and the host or others can add it to a 'deck' – a group of cards (and conversations) following a similar theme or subject.
For journalists, the platform could work to both help them engage in conversations around their own, and others', work, and help reach new readers based on their interest in the subject, as opposed to the people they follow.
It also offers journalists another platform to share their work and build focused communities around it.
For example, a freelance journalist might like to create Joota cards of their content across different news websites, and collect them together in a deck of their work. Other users can then follow that deck, and receive notifications when new content, or cards, are added.
Or a technology journalist could create Joota cards for content they come across over the web with a technology focus and curate those into decks. This could then prove useful for research purposes, such as seeing what others have already reported on an issue and how the online community is responding.
Chief operating officer Ashran Ghazi said the idea was to make social networking more "meaningful".
"Social networks were going mainstream and we were looking for something that could create value.
"Then we started realising there's so much noise within the social networks today. Even though you have friends following on Facebook or whichever accounts you have on social media, the people you actually have conversations with are very few, and sometimes when people put up posts in terms of trying to get feedback or thoughts it's always limited within their social circle."
Instead, Joota is "not about the person that you follow, but it's about the conversations that you have that are of common interest between you and that person".
This means that you only engage with a user around the content interests you share, and not around those which you do not.
"Content now becomes the point of connection between one person to another person," Ghazi explained.
While the service – which currently has 6-7,000 users – is free to use, there are premium services being made available.
For publishers, this includes the ability to turn off advertising on Joota cards. This can then be sold to its own advertisers, giving the publisher "another layer of real estate to sell ads", Ghazi said.
The platform also lets advertisers create promoted cards. Ghazi said that Joota gives advertisers the "ability to associate ads to relevant content".
He added that the site will introduce "further features or services to enhance the experience", in time, which may cover branding or marketing opportunities.