As a follow-on to my research into Evite alternatives, I also decided to look into sites that allow you to find or promote public events in your area:
Upcoming.org (a Yahoo company): Fairly basic public and friend-network social events calendar, providing to opportunity to meet new people interested in the same events. Seems to have a decent number of events, reasonably attractive layout, and RSS/iCal/Yahoo integration. However, the navigation leaves a lot to be desired. Most importantly, you can’t browse by category or venue (though you can narrow a search by category). The network building features seem weak too. For instance, clicking the Contacts link at the top of the page takes you to a page that shows your current friends (which for new users is just a lot of blank space), and allows you to search for existing users one at a time, but nowhere on the page can you invite new users (there’s a link on the home page for that). Also, there doesn’t seem to be any search/invite from address book feature.
Eventful: Public events site claiming to have “the world’s largest collection of events”. Browse by topic or venue, with roll-up of event counts in each. Share events through email, digg, del.icio.us, reddit, and Live Clipboard, and add to Eventful, Yahoo, Google, Outlook, Rabble, or iCal calendars.
In addition to a large number of upcoming events, you can also request events from performers and get alerts on future performances. I’d be curious to know how successful this is. The status of demands goes through Started Demand, Reached Critical Mass, Performer Contacted, Performer Agreed, to Event Scheduled. However, looking through the current top demands, all are in Started Demand, even with 2000+ people. If there has been past success here, they don’t seem to be bragging about it.
You can also create your own public or private events, including recurring events. The set of event options seems quite rich: description with limited HTML, up to 3 categories, tags, cost, picture, shareable URL, calendar and group. For public events, there’s also an option to allow submitting the event to other event-related websites. I really like the way you can click arrows to grow or shrink the multi-line text boxes. The only thing missing (which Upcoming.org features) is the ability to control guest invites and total event size.
Zvents: Public-only event search and sharing, along with friend group calendar sharing. Browse by category hierarchy or venue, though unfortunately event counts don’t roll up to the top-level categories. The look is professional, navigation is easy, and the event pages are quite rich. Nice integration with Google Maps to get a map view of the events in a category, and with Plaxo to access your address book in Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail, AOL, or CSV.
Meetup: Find special interest groups near you. The site seems well-executed and features quite a few groups (currently 594 within 25 miles of Seattle). I really like the discussion board of new features.
The downside is the monetization model: the organizer pays $12-19/mo, depending on the billing term of 1-6 months, to start and maintain the group. Personally, I think this is a terrible idea. I wouldn’t want to front $19, $38, or possibly $57 to discover that I can’t find enough interest in my group after a few months. (They offer a 30-day money back guarantee, but that doesn’t feel like enough time to gauge interest.) Even if I found, say, a dozen people, I wouldn’t want to have to collect $2-3 in dues each month to pay for the Meetup group. It seems like there must be better monetization options, or at least a tiered approach based on size of group or amount of activity. I’d love to start a Seattle Hot ‘n Spicy food lovers meet-up, but at these prices, I’ll be looking to alternative services.