Microsoft reportedly has begun a private beta called Microsoft Vine that will keep you and your friends and family in the know in case of natural disaster.
What we have here is a fairly sexy aggregator of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – 20,000 news sources, NOAA, Twitter and public safety announcements. When the fit hits the shan, you need to be able to alert others that you're OK. And Vine would do so via a desktop client, text message, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter.
However, "in the know" may be a bit of a misnomer. See, here's the thing about a natural disaster: Chances are if you're in one, you won't have power. And wireless carriers are getting better at generator backups (you should see the press releases we get anytime something bad's about to happen), but I can remember not having any signal – GSM, CDMA, landline or carrier pigeon – for several days after hurricane Ivan in September 2004. (Bad enough when you have family worried about you, and even worse if you're trying to get married that weekend.) So if the infrastructure's not there for you to get the word out, this could all be a moot point. (And Twitter integration could well prove to be the linchpin now – remember that.)
But this is 2009. This is post-Katrina. And we've learned from our mistakes. And Microsoft Vine could well be an excellent way to get word out that you're still ticking. Let's hope they open it up before the summer silly season.
Check out more about Vine over at Techcrunch
Update: You can learn more and sign up to get a beta invite at Vine.net.