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Students Start Spanish Social Site

Facebook is ubiquitous, but perhaps not universal. Three Harvard students have developed a new social networking site, Vostu.com, that they say will fill a void left by online communities in which English is the lingua franca.

The Spanish-language interface, publicly launched at the end of February, is intended to help connect the Latin American community, according to founders Joshua Kushner ’08, Daniel E. Kafie ’05, and Harvard Business School student Mario T. Schlosser.

Even though membership is currently by invitation only, Vostu.com has accrued over 600 members—mostly from Argentina, Peru, and Mexico—since it went public.

While it includes features, such as photo albums, event planners, and blogs, common to other social networking portals, Kafie, a Honduran native, thinks that Latin Americans will prefer the “closer relationships” and “tighter groups” fostered by Vostu.com.

Members with registered accounts can currently join networks based on their country, city, or school in Latin America.

Schlosser, who prepared the coding for the site, said that Votsu.com offers services that caters more specifically to its target audience.

“One of our ideas is to connect ex-pats with family members at home,” Schlosser said. “Facebook can’t focus on such things; they focus on the U.S.”

Christina A. Herndon ’08 said she joined the Vostu.com network in order to communicate with family members in Peru.

“I wanted my cousins to be able to connect with me,” Herndon said, “but some of them don’t speak English as well as others.”

From the business standpoint, the founders said that Latin America seemed like a promising market for a new social networking site.

“It’s a place where Internet use is increasing every year and technology is booming at a rapid pace,” said Kushner. “We’re hoping to get pretty big, pretty fast.”

And while Vostu.com creators are currently focusing on the Latin American community, they hope to expand in the future. Schlosser said they are planning to launch an Arabic version of Vostu.com.

“Ultimately, we hope Vostu is a media company, not a social network,” said Kafie.

Representatives from Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.
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