i-Neighbors is a free online social networking service that connects residents of geographic neighborhoods. The goal of this site is to help individuals and their communities organize, share information, and work together to address local problems.
i-Neighbors was first launched in 2004 and bills itself as “the place where neighbors come to meet, plan and stay informed,” and roughly 73,000 of them are doing just that across the United States and Canada.
i-Neighbors is part of an ongoing research project directed by Prof. Keith Hampton at The University of Pennsylvania. It is designed to help connect the increasing number of neighbors who live steps away from each other, but whose lives somehow never manage to intersect.
The six-year-old website aims to meet people where they are today—online, that is—and encourage them, in turn, to meet their neighbors and start forging stronger local connections.
Anyone can create an account on i-Neighbors for free and either join an existing neighborhood group or start a new one. i-Neighbors lets users define the neighborhoods themselves by entering a short description and marking the neighborhood on a map. Once launched, the neighborhood platform works and feels a lot like other social media sites. Users can create a profile and upload a photo, there are message boards and email lists, places to add photos, links and files, local reviews and other features like a neighborhood calendar and directory. Groups can also be tailored to specific purposes, like neighborhood watch or crime prevention groups, or community planning processes.
Neighborhood networking sites like i-neighbors are exploding these days, and include platforms like Front Porch Forum and Common Place, as well as broader community-level platforms tailored specifically to planning purposes, like MindMixer and Engaging Plans.