Silicon Valley Star Starts Up New Kind of Social Network

For most people, the term "social network" means one of two things: Facebook or MySpace. But one Silicon Valley pioneer thinks the next name on the lips of the Web-surfing public will be his new site: Zivity.com.

Zivity operates differently from the Wal-Mart and Target of the social networking world in two ways: it charges members a subscription fee, and, oh yeah, it also features nude photos — lots of them.

But before you lump in Zivity with extremely popular online porn peddlers like Xtube and AdultFriendFinder, consider this: co-founder Scott Banister is already a Silicon Valley success, and his newest venture is being bankrolled by big-name venture capital.

But Zivity presents Banister with a unique challenge: Can he make money on a Web site whose simple nude photos are almost quaint compared to the raunchy sex images that drive traffic, and immense profits, on the Internet?

"We are believers, and so are our new investors, in this big shift that's going on in entertainment. … [MySpace] is actually the largest photography site in the world. What they have, uniquely, is all of this photographic content in the context of a social environment," Banister told ABCNews.com.

"It's a social network built around who took the photographs. We look at that and we see a huge opportunity to enter that same market, but with a subscription-only model."

Zivity.com works like this: potential users sign up for the site (currently invite only) and pay $10 monthly subscription fees to become members.

As with other social networking sites, members connect, making online friends. But unlike other social network users, members on Zivity find a plethora of photos of nude women in various "sexy" poses, upon which they get to vote for the ones they like best.

Members join to make online friends and gain access to the nude photos. Photographers and models post their photos online to possibly earn money.

Members get five votes per month, and the models and their photographers get paid based on the number of votes they get. There is a waiting list of 30,000 members. Bannister said that because the models are paid, the company has tax information that proves all are at least 19.

"If you look at traditional media, obviously nudity clearly has its place," he said. "Certainly it works on the 'L Word' and 'Weeds' and 'Sex and the City.' New York Magazine can have Lindsay Lohan."

Fees Make It Ad-Free

The subscription model allows the service to avoid advertisers. From Banister's viewpoint, the absence of ads gives users the freedom to post nude photos and the confidence that their information will never be leveraged for profit.

"The key advantage is that you no longer have to answer to the advertisers. MySpace has a big department of people to police MySpace ... for nudity," Banister said.

"When you're 100 percent supported by advertisers you're kind of in a strait jacket. We're trying to create a social network environment that doesn't have to play into that strait jacket. … We've sent the advertisers packing."

Last year, Facebook got into serious hot water when it automatically enrolled members in its Beacon program, which broadcasted their purchases on certain Web sites to everyone on their friend lists. Eventually, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized and made the program an opt-in application.

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