Profile: aSmallWorld.net

Exclusive Internet club attracts the rich and glamorous

by Pascale Mollard-Chenebenoit / AFP
Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:51 PM ET

Care to rub shoulders, virtually speaking, with the likes of supermodel
Naomi Cambell or fashion icon Jean-Charles de Castelbajac?

If the answer is ‘yes,’ then the solution is aSmallWorld.net, an
exclusive social networking website for the wealthy and glamorous —
that is, for those wealthy, glamorous and lucky enough to be admitted.

"We have imposed certain criteria in order to keep the network
exclusive. To join, you need to be invited by a trusted member," the
site’s homepage announces.

"If you have not received an invitation, you can ask your friends
to invite you. If you have no friends who are members yet, please be
patient."

For some aSmallWorld wannabees, the wait may be long. Created in
2004, the New York-based, English-speaking website today boasts only
265,000 members — compared to the two million new users its less
exclusive counterpart, Facebook, claims sign up each week.

The site is the brainchild of Swedish banker Erik Wachtmeister, who
lived the small-world creed in his earlier career — perpetually
bumping into acquaintances during commutes between Europe and the
United States.

Wachtmeister realised a community of people existed that shared the
same tastes, needs, desires. So why not create an exchange forum,
allowing this swank and peripatetic world to exchange tips on good
hotels and restaurants as well as on private soirees in various
capitals?

Besides stars like Campbell — who apparently rarely logs onto the
site — aSmallWorld membership counts trust-fund kids, up-and-coming
international executives and communications specialists eager to expand
their Rolodex.

Those who make aSmallWorld’s cut must adhere to strict criteria.
Exchanges are conducted exclusively in English. Perfect spelling is a
must. Vulgarity, intolerance, racial or pornographic references are all
taboo.

The 10 aSmallWorld webmasters are charged with responding rapidly
to the faintest trace of abuse and their efforts appear to be paying
off; the virulence often present on the Internet is absent on the
site’s forums.

Discussions might instead center on practical matters — such as where to buy "an elegant and discreet" diamond.

But aSmallWorld may not always be a happy one. One Scandinavian
member was poised to move in with a man she had met on the site six
months previously, before discovering he had asked another virtual
girlfriend to marry him.

Today, the site is hoping its membership A-list will attract
publicity from prestigious brands. And it needs more participation from
more of its members who, caught between two planes and three cocktail
parties, tend to log on sporadically.

Nor is aSmallWorld the only one: aSmallWorld groups also exist on
Facebook, suggesting exclusiveness is a matter of interpretation.

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