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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Brightkite’s smart “profile not found” pages

July 25, 2008

For the unaware, a 404 page is a page you typically see when the page you’re trying to reach simply does not exist.  In geek speak, 404 literally means “Page Not Found”.  Here is an example 404 page on my site.

My 404 page consists of a simple message asking you to contact me to let me know that something went wrong.  There are a lot of services that do much more than simply display a typical “Page Not Found” message, and today we’re going to look at Brightkite‘s “smart” “profile not found” pages.

Brightkite knows how their user’s are using the system.  An example of this was brought to my attention by my coworker Kyle Slattery.  He told me about Brightkite’s ability to detect when a user does not exist on Brightkite, but may exist on Twitter.

Brightkite and Twitter share the same prefix for username detection, the @ symbol ((Other services, like Pownce, use the ! exclamation point.)).  Since Brightkite knows that some people use their system as a geo-enabled Twitter client, like I explained the other day, sometimes you’ll find people “talking” to or about people that do not yet have a Brightkite account. Kyle gave me the example of the username @mikemangino.  That username does not exist on Brightkite but it does on Twitter.

Here is what the profile page looks like on Brightkite for this user.

Rather than show their typical 404 error page, Brightkite asks if you are looking for the same username on Twitter, and even gives you the option to invite that person over to Brightkite.  Kyle thought this was “brilliant”, and I do too.  Kyle was wrong about one thing though; Brightkite’s “profile not found” page isn’t as smart as he might have thought.  Here is what Kyle said:

“Brilliant, if you go to a user on BrightKite that exists on Twitter, but not on BK, there’s a link to invite them, not a 404.”

I don’t think Kyle actually meant to say that Brightkite detects the user on Twitter, because they definitely do not.  But I just wanted to be sure it was clearly stated.

Brightkite’s “profile not found” page is smart enough to know that people are probably on that page because they clicked an @username to a Twitter account and not a Brightkite account. And that is indeed brilliant.  It is a great example of how Brightkite is continuously showing themselves to be “in touch” with how people use their system which makes Brightkite a joy to use.