'Facebook for the rich' begins accepting members at $9,000 apiece

Photo from netropolitan.info
Consider this hypothetical situation: You, a wealthy socialite, want to make friends over the internet, but without encountering any of the riff-raff that hangs out on traditional social networking sites. What do you do?

If you’re former Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra conductor James Touchi-Peters, then you would have resolved this dilemma by launching Netropolitan — an “online country club for people with more money than time.”

And for everyone else “Seeking a place to talk about fine wine, fancy cars and lucrative business decisions without judgment,” then Touchi-Peters’ new project may be the perfect place — his social networking site began accepting members on Tuesday this week. In order to get involved, however, you’ll first have to write a $9,000 check for membership in the web’s newest, and likely most exclusive, online club.

James and others have mentioned feeling judged for talking about certain topics on other social media outlets. Like they were bragging and met with a little ill will,” messaging specialist Michelle Lawless at Media Minefield told the Los Angeles Times this week. “Netropolitan is designed to be the place to talk about your last European vacation or new car without the backlash.”

"I saw a need for an environment where you could talk about the finer things in life without backlash -- an environment where people could share similar likes and experiences," Touchi-Peters, 48, explained to CNN recently. "This is 100 percent real, and I believe there is a need and an audience for this service.”

According to Lawless, that demand does indeed exist — in an email sent to RT on Wednesday, she said that interest in Netropolitan was so significant that the website crashed on Tuesday during its official launch due to an abundance of traffic that prompted the company upgrade its servers.

That isn’t to say that every visitor to the Netropolitan website is signing up, however. Memberships begin with a $6,000 sign-up fee and another $3,000 for the first year of service. Lawless told RT that the social network is refraining from giving specific numbers about the number of users, citing security and privacy reasons, but said “dozens” are already a part of the club despite the hefty price tag — far from the estimated 1.34 billion active users who use Facebook for free each month.

“Obviously not everyone can afford that, and that’s partly the point,” Touchi-Peters told the New York Post of Netropolitan’s sign-up fees. “The point is that it’s supposed to be a private and secure environment.”

“It was important that it be an amount substantial enough to vet members, as we will never ask for our members’ banking information,” he explained to Nextshark. “If you can pay that fee and behave appropriately in Netropolitan, you are more than welcome in our club.”

The site’s terms of service suggest it isn’t all that similar to competing sites like Facebook, however. For starters, the $9,000 price of admissions allows the company to avoid subjecting users to third-party advertisements of any sorts, and for now the site requires that all public posts be made in English — and attributed to actual people.

“All members of Netropolitan must use their real names, and must be truthful about their cities of residence and their background,” the rules read in part.

"We're going to create the service and let the members decide what to do with it," Touchi-Peters told ABC News last week. "We expect most of the activity will be on the discussion boards."

But with discussion boards and other parts of the site only available to registered users, a significant chunk of change is required to see what kind of conversations are actually occurring behind Netropolitan’s velvet rope.

On the company’s public Facebook profile, users of the free alternative have already questioned whether it would be worth it at all to pay substantially for access to an online community.

“It is just my opinion, but does anyone else think that this is either a really bad scam or just really sad?” one person posted on the Netropolitan Facebook page.

“$9000 for a crappy Wordpress Social Network. Must say a great scam and I can't stop laughing - I hope this guy make a bundle off of these suckers,” added another.

So far, Netropolitan is taking the critique in stride.

“Some news outlets are having a good time poking fun at us, our goals, and how we live. We're okay with that. That's what the public internet is all about,” the company wrote online.