Harnu social networkThe Scottsman’s Dominic Jeff reports that fellow Seattleite Jason Gowans (@jasongowans) has co-founded a new social network.

Not just any social network, Harnu connects people around the world in their native language. Harnu uses Google Translate so messages are displayed in a user’s own language, almost instantly.

Unlike social networks today, Gowans wants to encourage users in over 100 countries to interact with people outside their social network.

[Social networks] tend to reinforce our existing networks. On Facebook you are posting content that most people who will read it will agree with.

Gowans is also motivated by what he sees as a decline in the quality and availability of foreign news, especially in the US. Referencing the story of Hamas holding an Israeli soldier captive in return for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners,

It was such an amazing and unusual event, and I felt there was no real way of finding out more about it. What better than to give people the chance to talk to ordinary Israelis and Palestinians? People are learning less about the world and we want to encourage them to learn more.

harnu logo social networkHarnu may not be a alone. Jeff reports that Face­book has launched a system to allow business users to display their page in local languages, and Twitter is recruiting volunteer translators.

However, the approach of allowing people across the world to talk about things of common interest or to find out information first hand and with the context another has is fascinating.

We could build social and business networks never before possible. I know my ability to communicate with fellow lawyers, business people, and entrepreneurs is limited by language. My ability to communicate with someone in their native language and vice versa could really open up opportunities for learning and new business.

Truth be told, Gowans, like me, is not a native Seattleite. He moved from Scotland to the States in the 90’s with an athletic scholarship. I did not earn an athletic scholarship.

Image courtesy of Flickr from Frontierofficial’s photostream.