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New Social Network Is a Lot Like LinkedIn, Only Actually Useful

• http://www.wired.com

But it wants more. On Monday, the four-year-old company expanded its large and growing footprint even further with a new social network. It's called WeWork Commons, and it could rival LinkedIn—except it might actually be useful.

The goal is to bring the experience of working in WeWork's physical offices to anyone, anywhere. It's an online service where members—many of them entrepreneurs and tech workers—can trade stories and advice with other members, find local events, rent workspace, and get access to discounted business services. This is the kind of stuff WeWork's more than 15,000 tenants have had access to all along. Now, the company is opening it up to thousands, if not millions more.

According to Kakul Srivastava, WeWork's chief product officer, the network isn't just about launching a new line of business for WeWork. It's about accommodating what she calls a "fundamental shift" in the way work is being done. "It's the rise of the independent worker," Srivastava says. "What we're launching is about that. It's about giving voice to that and building tools to allow that to happen."

There are now 17.9 million so-called "solopreneurs" in the United States, according to the business services firm MBO Partners. That's a 12.5 percent rise from 2011. It's a trend that's been alternately described as "the project economy," "the flex economy," and "the freelance economy," and it's precisely what has enabled WeWork to flourish.

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