WILTON, Conn. -- Back when she was on the verge of becoming a teenager, Wilton’s Julianna Yee wanted to open a Facebook account, just like so many of her friends. Her parents gave her the OK but also requested that she take a deeper look at social networking sites.
“I challenged her to tell me what the pros and cons were of Facebook and social media sites,” said her father, Bill. One day, she presented a one-page review of her thoughts and observations to her dad.
"I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “She was able to point out some of the shortcomings, and right at the top was that you were socializing with individuals from 13 to whatever age all under one roof, one global community.”
Fast forward a few years, and Julianna, now 16, and her father decided to investigate the idea a bit further. She wanted to see whether a new social network could be created that would have better privacy controls while sharing information efficiently. She also thought about the safeguards that could be put in place for users and how access would be controlled.
It was that process that led her and her father to create, ThePortalz.com, a social networking site that has been operating since April.
“ThePortalz approach is uniquely different: Users do not sign up directly for an account,” she said. “On the site, you have to be an adult, at least 18 years old, to sign up and create user accounts on behalf of other members. This enhances responsibility and safety of its users.”
ThePortalz has three different age group networking communities: tweens, teens and adults.
Not only does it enhance interest among users in the same communities, but it also breaks the communities down into those age groups. That ensures more security, Julianna said, as each user must be assigned to an appropriate age group.
Individuals from one community cannot communicate with someone from another community unless they are part of the same private social network, she said.
Each of the communities has core applications, such as creating albums, forums and polls, she said. The adult community has applications that can be used by organizations and businesses, she added.
Bill said business associates and friends appreciate the need to create a social networking site that can be restricted to individuals within a business or organization.
Julianna and Bill said they chose the name because of the idea behind their site. They couldn’t use “Portals” with the S because that was already taken, but Bill said switching it to "Z" makes the name unique.
So far, they have several hundred users, mainly based in Connecticut. But they hope to expand and, if possible, derive some revenue from it, even if it is just to defray the costs, they said.
Julianna thinks they will be to carve out a niche for themselves in the social media field.
“I think people who like Facebook will also like ThePortalz,” she said. “I’m really happy with what we have created.”