Guardian launches social network (finally!)

The new website for The Guardian Weekly is the first really interesting development we’ve seen from Faringdon in quite a while. In print, it’s really a ‘best of’ selection from the daily newspaper, plus the Observer, Washington Post and Le Monde. Online, it’s going for something completely different.

The site splits in two. The ‘blue section’ is professionally produced editorial, ‘all linked by the common theme of reporting the experiences of individual people’. Blogging by proxy, if you like. The ‘brown section’, My Guardian Weekly, goes all social-networky. Once you register, you can submit articles for inclusion in the ‘blue section’; you can create a ‘watchlist’ of friends; upload photos; send ’email’; submit comments on ‘blue section’ articles; and see yourself, and fellow registered users, on a Google Map mashup. Oh, and it looks much more Guardian-y, too.

There’s also the intriguing notion of a ‘campaign on a major issue chosen entirely by Guardian Weekly readers and website users’. Social networking with a centre-left purpose? Intriguing.

Comparisons with the Telegraph’s equivalent service are inevitable. The key difference is that the GW site brings the users into the ‘proper’ editorial. My.Telegraph gives you a blog, but keeps you at arm’s length from the real journalism. GW doesn’t give you a blog (per se), but invites you to be part of the real journalism. Personally, that feels like a more engaging offer. But I guess they’ll have to set the bar relatively low; readers need to feel there’s a high likelihood of their writing being accepted.

Only the niche-market Weekly product for now… but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to see this as the ‘beta’ for a new Guardian Unlimited.