AWS: The new neighborhood architect for Nextdoor.com

dsc_9910

As the world becomes more connected, through technology and social media, neighborhoods are becoming disconnected. A recent report cited that neighborly bonds are declining, noting that about one-third of Americans say they have never interacted with their neighbors. The report also indicates that even though technology and social media are connecting people, Americans are more detached from the people they encounter on a daily basis.

This trend was the inspiration behind the startup Nextdoor.com Inc., a social network for neighborhoods and communities. The company began with a goal to connect neighbors and build trust.

“Your neighbors are a great resource that you should know in a local context. We feel that Nextdoor is bringing back a sense of community to the neighborhood by connecting people in this virtual medium, online social networking,” said Prakash Janakiraman (pictured), co-founder and chief architect at Nextdoor.com.

While at the AWS Summit in San Francisco, Janakiraman sat down for an interview with Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick) and Lisa Martin (@Luccazara), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio. (*Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE features Prakash Janakiraman as its Guest of the Week.

The trust factor

Network.com had its work cut out for it, because unlike other social media platforms, which allow you to connect to people you know, this platform began with the premise of the unknown. In building trust and a network, Janakiraman made a deliberate decision to verify each member as actually being part of the neighborhood. 

Every single neighborhood in the next door canon is started by one member, and that member draws the neighborhood’s boundaries [for] subsequent members. So every member who joins has to prove that their actually residents of the community,” Janakiraman said.

He believes that this raises trust and mentioned that the Nextdoor.com online communities have grown through word of mouth or incidents in the neighborhood that brought people together. The platform allows users to invite neighbors they know and also has a postcard program to reach out to those users do not know.

Building a network without building an infrastructure

Janakiraman worked at Google before beginning the startup. He explained that being employed by the technical giant, he had access to an infinite amount of computing resources. When he left Google, Amazon Web Services was launching Elastic Compute Cloud and Simple Storage Service, which for him, leveled the playing field for developers. No longer was there a need for the overhead of physical infrastructure, data centers and employees to maintain them.   

“We started out on EC2 and S3, and over time, as we fast forward to today, we’re using almost 30 different AWS services, including DynamoDB, ECS, Redshift, Kinesis. And so all of these components fit together in running our business,” said Janakiraman.

For the social site, it all comes down to total cost of ownership. Janakiraman said Nextdoor.com uses AWS products, which offer scale and speed, because they allow the company to focus on the business end of the site. Janakiraman enjoys the advantages of not having to manage an infrastructure, as well as having the capability to build applications from the AWS components. Furthermore, there is flexibility without making a large investment, he said. So his team can quickly spin something up and immediately shut it down if it doesn’t work.

Currently, the website supports 135,000 neighborhoods in the United States with about 150 employees — including 60 engineers. “Right now we only have two people that manage our underlying infrastructure — DevOps folks, so we are a really lean team,” he explained.

Instead of investing in infrastructure and hiring a large team of developers, Janakiraman feels that it is better to spend on refining the user experience and growing the community.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s independent editorial coverage of AWS Summit 2017 San Francisco. (*Disclosure: Nextdoor.com Inc. sponsors some AWS Summit segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither Nextdoor.com Inc. nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.).

Photo: SiliconANGLE