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GibBook – Gibraltar Own Social Network Site

Gibbook.com: the social network for familiar faces

Think global. Now think local. Now think Yanito, and you have the recipe for the social network designed as one-stop portal to all that is red & white.

Gibbook.com was launched in late November 2010 not to compete with, but as one cosy, warm, familiar, healthy and passionate alternative to, other social networks, with the extra bonus of the specific local slant, although it does not restrict membership to geographical or birthright grounds, and anyone interested in Gibraltarian life can join up.

Gibbook.com is pretty much focused on anything and everything Gibraltarian, from members to advertisement, from weather to diary, from news to discussions which colloquially flow in a saucy mixture of English and Spanish.

Founder and administrator Alfred Ballester, a thirty-year old marketing agent for a local gaming company, admits there still are some teething pains to overcome: the web design could definitely use a boost, because the format is too plain and somehow confusing, but the main features were set up from inception, while the infrastructure is bound to ever-growth, the more users it gets, and the more suggestions they put forward on what they want and need from it.

One innovative facility Gibbook.com offers is the video and audio chat similar to Skype connection for the chatroom, which means users can actually make themselves seen and heard laughing out loud, instead of just typing LOL!

Strong of his six-year experience in the field, and his keen interest in anything that brings people closer as a community, Alfred is very proud of this achievement, which he describes as ‘a new form of entertainment on the Rock’, and whose implications are all the pros of hanging out with friends face to face, without having to physically drive to each other’s house, or to the pub on a stormy night.

Does it sound alienating, stripping Third Millennium’s Homo sapiens of the ability of traditional social interaction? Perhaps, but plenty of websites out there do it already, so why not narrowing it down to the devil we know? Anyways, it is up to the individual to find the right balance between reality and virtual reality.

The devil’s advocate might argue that Gibbook.com is redundant, considering the success that Facebook is having locally, with groups about Gibraltar popping out every day. Yet, Alfred believes it isn’t: statistics prove that whoever is hooked to the fad tends to have accounts with more than one Social Network, and post their comments, videos and photos on one or the other depending on the friends they have in them.

Furthermore, because everyone knows everyone in Gibraltar, the forum is guaranteed to be kept urbane, free of the cyber-bullying some people experience on worldwide sites, since it virtually polices itself, and anyone can report abuse and possibly be personally acquainted with the abuser.

Although pseudonyms are common on Gibbook.com to the point it is tricky to connect to friends, because often you cannot actually work out who is behind the wacky profile photo and the cryptic nicknames, the administrator can access everyone’s data and issue a warning to anyone who misbehaves and kick them out if recidivist.

Even if it is designed to be a safe, friendly and casual environment for Yanito eyes only, the website is available worldwide to anyone with an interest in Gibraltar, which prompts Alfred to remind everyone not to post confidential information on it or, worse still, party political slander.

Gibbook.com wasn’t built up from scratch, but uses a platform provided by a reputable UK company, whose marketing director Alfred knows personally; hence it can be operated from Alfred’s laptop, as a hobby.

An expensive hobby maybe, but not a too time-consuming one, in a day and age when everyone is hooked on gadgets for mobile and electronic communication.

Not at all the stereotypical nerd, Alfred is not interested in informatics – although he knows what he’s doing thanks to a course in HTML programming – as much as in the sociological and economical ramifications of search engine rules, for example how a firm or an individual can drastically improve their rankings just by re-wording their homepage pitch, or strategically placing links and pictures.

He measures the success of his brainchild not only on the number of subscriptions (anyone can just sign up just out of curiosity and then forget about it!) but on the amount of members logged in daily, and the time they are actively logged in for.

And it’s a ‘virtual circle’: the more users sign up, both individuals and associations, the better the service will get, since he hopes Gibraltarian firms will take advantage of Gibbook.com’s popularity to advertise on it and help out with maintenance costs – without making it a free-for-all spamville…

So far, small adverts can indeed be posted for free, and cultural events will always be, with the purpose of reaching out to the wider possible audience.

Pretty much work in progress, Alfred dreams Gibbook.com will be one day grow to a comprehensive tool for Gibraltar’s social life.

In the meantime he’s reached the ambitious target of 1,000 subscribers in less than a month, and donated £250 to the GBC Open Day.

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