Microsoft is testing a product called “Vine” that aims to connect Facebook, Twitter, text messages, traditional phone calls, email and other forms of communication into a system for sending and receiving urgent information during natural disasters. In the case of an earthquake, for example, a Vine user could send a single alert to a preset list of emergency contacts, who would receive the message in whatever form they chose -- such as text or email -- and send replies to the same list from whatever tool they were using.
The Vine system could also be used for routine events, such as a youth sports coach who needs to alert players and parents that a game has been rained out. In addition, Vine lets people post and receive reports, such as news items and public-safety alerts, from their neighborhoods. The company is unveiling Vine as a limited beta test, accepting invitation requests at www.vine.net.