Call it community watch for the computer savvy: a website called Nextdoor is aiming to connect you with your neighbors via smartphones, iPads, and laptops.
It's a social network centered around community — and by that, we mean everything from neighborhood potlucks and yard sales to home burglaries and missing pets. Nextdoor is not about narcissistic status updates or photos of people's kids; it functions as a hyper-local bulletin board, alerting residents of things happening directly in their own neighborhoods.
With many dwellers often never seeing the neighbors right down the street from them, the site (and accompanying iOS/Android apps) helps put real names (and sometimes faces) to those in the same community.
Users must sign up with first and last names and verify home addresses before being permitted to join the site. Once registered, you're automatically assigned to your local news feed. Zoom in on the map of your neighborhood, and you'll see which other neighbors are registered as well.
After creating an account, a quick scroll through the feed had me surprised to learn about a number of recent car burglaries, stolen mail incidents, suspicious characters, and even a location shoot for Showtime's Shameless from my 499 other neighbors (which made me realize how little I actually knew about where I lived). Some posts also come from adjacent neighborhoods, if the original poster chooses to share it, which is helpful for reporting widespread crime or traffic issues.
Aside from serving as a neighborhood safety watch, Nextdoor also offers classifieds listings, free items posts, and lost and found posts, all of which can be turned off or on in your feed. Neighbors can exchange babysitting services, refer trusted vendors, or post notices about construction work, for example. It's a way to take down the virtual fence and meet the family living next door or on the next block.
The site is serious about keeping a close-knit group. No outsiders can view your neighborhood feed, not even law enforcement, though authorized police and fire departments can post on the site and read replies.
Since launching in 2011, San Francisco-based Nextdoor has connected more than 36,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states. Los Angeles County has 1,292 neighborhood sites, while Orange County has 476.