A new retail development targeting Mormon shoppers has Technicolor buildings, balloons in the air and a regular bus passing by but you won't find the shops at a street address.
Merchants on www.yourldsneighborhood.com are housed in virtual storefronts, where they hawk their wares to shoppers who browse on their computers. Musicians play at the bus stop, artists display their work at a neighborhood street fair, and craftsmen tempt passers-by from their rented booths.
The new Web site, which was launched this month, is a virtual mall targeting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site is also the latest that attempts to rise above the din of Internet commerce and social networking by focusing on a specific niche.
Currently, almost a half-dozen sites not including dating sites or job boards aim their networks specifically to members of the LDS Church. Ideally, joining these networks will better ensure that users can associate with people who share their beliefs, entertainment interests and unique hobbies.
The founder of yourldsneighborhood.com, Gaylen Rust, said that the Web site will provide news, blogs and products that meet LDS standards. At the same time, those offerings will not necessarily be the same things found through official church-sanctioned sites.
For example, some of the musicians featured will be rock bands who write LDS-themed music, Rust said. That type of music might not be found in Deseret Book, but it is appropriate for even faithful LDS members, and like the site's other content, will be uplifting.
"So much of what we see is negative," Rust said. "I want to see more of the positive."
The site does not have a social networking component yet, although the organizers are planning it. Other sites, however, already offer that networking.
A couple of the sites, www.ldslinkup.com and www.ldsfiles.com, offer a broad array of choices for users. They can set up profiles, post pictures, write blog entries and create a circle of friends. The sites offer uniquely LDS options, such as a way to search for former mission partners or ward members.
"LDS LinkUp's purpose is to enhance the power of each member's personal LDS network and to increase the connectivity of the whole LDS community," said Jed Dempsey, founder of the ldslinkup.com parent company, San Francisco-based Who New, in a news release.Another site aims for an even more specific audience: www.theldswoman.com. Users there can post profiles, and they also can subscribe to newsletters that deal with the issues and hobbies of LDS women.