Man’s best friend is about to get man’s best social networking technology. Wooof, a made-in-Israel app, provides a platform for dogs to get together online, “trading” photos, providing check-ins, recording dog walking routes and times, and even sending out real-time alerts when a “dog cop” – an inspector who gives out tickets for uncollected spoor – is in the area.
Of course, it’s not the dog who does the data recording. It’s up to a dog’s human minder to set up a profile page for the pet, take the photos that appear in the Wooof gallery, and submit the tips about training, vets, sales on dog food, and the other dog-related tidbits that Wooof provides its dog-loving community.
But the point, said CEO Yael Broitman, is Wooof is the first social network where dogs are the center of attention. “I grew up with a lot of dogs and have a strong affinity for them,” she said. “I searched for a long time to find an app that would connect me with others who love dogs as I do. There are many dog-oriented apps, but each of them do one specific thing, like inform users about scenic walking routes and the like. I decided to put everything together in one place, and thus was born Wooof.”
Like other social networking apps, Wooof takes advantage of a smartphone’s GPS chip for location services, as well as its networking capabilities and built-in cameras. Users can check-in when they get to a dog park (those fenced-off areas in public parks where dogs can run and be free), and check to see if their dog pals are already there or are on the way. Owners who hire a walker can use the app to check on how far and how long their dog was walked. They can even set the app to turn on its camera and take video or still shots of the walk and upload them to a Wooof cloud, where the owners can see them and share them with the rest of the community.
Many users, said Broitman, will find the app’s inspector alert very useful. Similar to Waze, where users tell the community if they spot a traffic cop, users can upload information about the location of a “doggy cop” – the enforcement agent who check to ensure that dogs are leashed and tagged and that their owners have a “poo pouch” to collect their four-legged friend’s leavings. With the app, users can keep on their toes to ensure that their pooches are well-behaved, so that the inspector does not take an excessive interest in them.
It’s surprising that no one else had tried something like this before, said Broitman, given that the dog market is so big. In Israel alone, there are 400,000 dogs – with 20% of households having one and the market for dog-related products and services worth NIS 2.2 billion a year.
The app is available for free for iPhones and Android devices (Broitman intends to make money from ads and partnerships with businesses and services that will advertise with Wooof). After Israel, Broitman intends to launch in Russia – and then the world.
Members of social networks generally skew to the younger demographics, many of whom are single – and for many singles, dogs are a great way to meet mates. The Internet is full of tips on how to meet other singles at the dog park or at dog-related events – just owning a dog is already an ice-breaker, according to many of the sites that list these tips, so already half the problem in meeting that cute guy or girl is solved.
Does Broitman believe that the main audience for Wooof won’t be dogs, or even dog owners – but specifically single dog owners? Although the app doesn’t reveal any information about owners – with no names, addresses, email addresses, or anything else – it would be easy enough for a dog owner to figure out that “Fluffy” from the dog park belongs to the blonde who walks her every day.
It’s certainly one way of building “community,” but not exactly what she has in mind, said Broitman. “I am happy for any and all social connections that dog owners can make among themselves. Dog owners are an important community, and the growth of the social aspect of that community is inevitable. Nevertheless, for us at Wooof the dogs are the center of attention, not what is going on around them.”