Microsoft Vine to offer emergency social networkBeta Windows widget tracks users' status online

29 April 2009

Microsoft Vine beta screenshot

Microsoft has unveiled the beta version of Vine, a location-based social networking app, designed to let you stay in touch with friends and family in the event of an emergency.

The Windows desktop widget could become an alternative to Facebook and Twitter for organising, staying in contact, and sharing information with groups of people in specific geographical areas. 

One potential critical application for Vine is to provide a simple reliable method of communication in the event of a local, national or international disaster, such as the global swine flu situation

The Vine widget aggregates data from local news sources and other users. According to the Vine factsheet, the software will 'cull articles from 20,000 local and national news sources, as well as public safety announcements'. Users - your friends and relatives - can post short 'alerts' or longer 'reports' to it via SMS and email, and it is claimed to integrate with Facebook, and in the future, Twitter.

Vine widget shows emergency map and contact status

Vine could also be used in non-emergency communication, and Microsoft gives examples of co-ordinating sports teams, school committees, volunteer groups or faith-based groups. The Vine widget displays a map of the user's community and the status of their contacts.

Which? has expert reviews of social networking websites,.

Which? tech expert Al Warman said: 'There have already been incidents where people have used Twitter to communicate in an emergency, despite this not being its original purpose.

'It will be interesting to see what Microsoft can deliver with its Vine social networking widget, and whether users will sign up to yet another application to keep track of their friends.'

The free Microsoft beta test of Vine will be open to 10,000 people in the Seattle area from May 2009, but if you're interested in Vine updates you can sign up at There are also printable Vine emergency cards to carry with you in case you need to send alerts to your emergency contacts.

Which? RSS and Twitter news feeds

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the Which? news RSS feed. If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste into your newsreader. Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to RSS news feeds.

You can also follow WhichNews on Twitter for all the latest consumer news, or follow WhichTech for technology updates.

Sign up to the weekly Which? tech email

Sign up to the Which? technology email

Keep your finger on the pulse of digital technology with the weekly email from the Which? Technology team

Every Tuesday we'll send you the latest news and reviews of MP3 players, mobile phones, cameras, high-definition TVs and other gadgets. 

Packed with the latest product launches, First Look reviews, expert advice and some incredible deals - can you afford not to be the first to find out?

Plus there are regular prize draws - the next lucky winner can choose a top-scoring Best Buy netbook, MP3 player or digital camera.