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Nextdoor competes with other social networks. It differentiates itself from Facebook, for example, by limiting the potential people in each network, so presumably improving privacy. It has been characterized by The Washington Post as part of a "wave" of community focus in the United States. They also hope to capitalize on what they perceive to be a widespread longing for local community at a time when online social networks are widely used. The site was in beta testing in 176 neighborhoods until October 2011.
Nextdoor's business plan is based on selling advertising to local businesses. Nextdoor also hopes to facilitate exchanges of goods and services in a manner similar to Craigslist. They believe, however, that users will be more comfortable trusting other verified users than they would using Craigslist. Recommendations of area resources are also provided. Chenda Ngak of CBS News has compared the site to a "College Bulletin Board".
Before registering an account, prospective users verify their home address. Verification methods include providing a credit card or confirming a code mailed or phoned to the prospective user. They provide registered users with a list of neighbors who have registered (users are required to provide their real name). Nextdoor allows users to see which nearby residents are registered on the site, and to send postcards advertising the site to non-registered neighbors. Nick Wingfield of The New York Times worried that the site may "be used to publicly shame" neighbors or lead to "snarky messages" between residents. Nextdoor leadership has maintained that the presence of real names helps maintain civil behavior among users.
Nextdoor was co-founded by Nirav Tolia, who based the company in San Francisco, California. Tolia had previously helped start Epinions. Early investors include Benchmark Capital, Shasta Ventures, and Rich Barton. As of October 2011, Nextdoor had 22 employees. In July 2012, NextDoor raised $18.6M in venture capital funding. Dan Clancy (ex Google) joined Nextdoor in February 2014.