By Sandra Ecklund
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- It's only been around for about five months, but a new social media site is already getting attention as a possible alternative to Twitter.
It's called Pheed (pronounced feed) and it's surpassed Facebook and Twitter on Apple's Top free Apps list. So far, it's only available online and on iTunes for Apple products, but the site
says an Android app is on its way to the Google Play store.
How to Pheed
Similar to all social media sites, you start out by signing up. You can do so through your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Linking your accounts will add them to the top of your profile so that anyone who looks at your "pheed" can click right through to your other online endeavors.
If you prefer to keep your accounts separate, you can simply sign up through an email account. Once you click the link in your confirmation email, you're ready to start, as Pheed says, "expressing yourself."
Once you upload your profile pic and background photo - much like Twitter and with less of the maneuverability of Facebook - you can start to subscribe to "Pheeds."
If your favorite artist or company hasn't yet joined up you can also find generic channels like Pheed Music, Fashion, Animals and Destinations. The trick is finding three feeds that catch your eye - you're forced to pick at least that many before moving on to the next step in creating your profile.
I chose the three generic feeds to get the ball rolling. Items from the 'pheeds' you subscribe to show up on your timeline (what Facebook users would call your newsfeed).
Once you're online and ready to browse, you can pick what formats show up on your timeline/newsfeed by picking between text, audio, photos, video or broadcasts or you can have them all show up at once.
There are options to either love something, not like it, "keep" it or flag it as inappropriate (Pheed is PG-13). If you like something on your timeline enough to want it on your own pheed, instead of 'retweeting' or 'sharing', you remix it.
"Keeping" something filters it into another timeline - kind of like favoriting a tweet. Also straight from the twitterverse, hashtags are used to distinguish keywords and search terms. Comments left on your pheed are called pheedbacks.
To build up your timeline (and your pheed) you have to subscribe to other users' channels. The featured channels page is filled with pro-skaters, photographers, musicians, and actors.
To create your own pheed submissions, you have 420 spaces for text, you can upload or record
audio, upload or take a photo with your phone/iPad, upload, record or use an external link for video, schedule a broadcast (think UStream) or go live on the spot.
Once you create your pheed, make sure you're happy with it. There's no edit feature so if you made a typo or thought of something more clever to say, you'll have to delete the pheed and submit it all over again.
What does Pheed have over Facebook or Twitter?
While many -- including Forbes -- are speculating that pheed could be the next Twitter or Facebook, it's still so new that it's riding the coat tails of the social media giants by having you share everything you find on Pheed on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. However, you can't yet 'pin' to Pinterest what you find on Pheed if you're into that particular social platform.
One unique feature is the ability to mark your territory. Pheed's terms of agreement are very explicit about the fact that owners of profiles own their own content, and the site even goes so far as letting you copyright your own submissions with the click of a box before you post anything online.
This may be why many artists are flocking to the site.
Some notable artists that are using Pheed so far include Lil' Wayne, Eminem, Flo Rida, B.o.B., Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus, Leona Lewis, Diddy and Zac Efron. Even WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has gotten into the new "phad," hosting their own pheed with videos, photos and links promoting events and video game releases.
And, yes, the pholks at Pheed love to use 'ph' phor everything.
You will probably find a lot more notable channels in circles a lot more hip than mine. Again, like Twitter, the accounts that need to be verified (celebrity or soon-to-be celebs) are marked with a purple check. Twitter's is blue.
Some critics, like the web gurus over at Gizmodo, see Pheed differently. They call it "a cynical cash-grab that it's unlikely you'll join, much less hear about ever again." If you click through to the article, beware the comments. If they were on Pheed, they'd garner an R-rating.
Oh, did I forget to mention the rating system? You can mark your own profile as G-rated, PG, PG-13 or R. This doesn't stop you from subscribing to any other channel rated differently or remixing anything from any other channel. Example, my account is still a default PG-13 but I could remix and subscribe to R-rated artist Pasha (aka yopoosh).
The most unique feature, however, is the user's ability to be paid for their pheeds.
The confirmation email states "users have the option to share for free or at a premium, either by applying a monthly subscription fee to their channel, or setting up a pay-per-view live broadcast event. In both cases, the user can select his/her own pricing and earn directly."
This means if you're popular or famous enough, and your content exclusive enough, maybe someone will pay to subscribe to your pheed for a price that you set.
While Pheed has many elements of current social networks combined into one, it lacks the ability to do certain things that could make a big difference in making "Pheeders" hang around.
There's no way to privately message users. Twitter has direct messaging that isn't seen by the general public. Facebook has private messaging and has even branched out to providing their own e-mail service. To talk on Pheed, you have to do it publicly.
That brings me to the biggest problem - one that Google+ is having right now as well - there's hardly anyone actively on Pheed yet. The network is in its infancy and the proof is in the pheedback made mostly by teens.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Business Journal, however, Pheed has over 1.5 million users.
"We are not releasing our next metric quite yet, but suffice it to say we are doing very well," said Director of Communications Chrysta Olson.
I also haven't found a way to browse users in order to find new channels to subscribe to. You can click on a user's profile and see who they subscribe to but that becomes tedious and doesn't even begin to make available those 1.5 million channels that are supposedly on there.
When asked about how to find channels, Olson provided the following: "You can go into the search tab (the second button on the bottom of the screen) where you can search channels by name; you can also search content via hashtags. On the web platform, you can also see 'suggested' channels."
Finally, while the pay option is cool, I'm not willing to pay anyone for a photo, link or video when I know it will probably hit the web for free eventually anyway. It will be interesting to see which celebrity -- if any -- takes advantage of that feature.
It will be even more interesting to see who, if anyone, takes advantage of Pheed for the long-term.