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Black Box Republic has launched a new personal relationship oriented members-only community. If you run a dating site or social network or are considering starting one, you should pay close attention to the Blackbox Republic launch.

Case in point, last week I was at a Mega-Tweetup at Microsoft in Cambridge and I ran into Stowe Boyd, who I used to work with back when this blog was part of the Corante network. Today, while putting together something for the launch and doing some searches, I see that Stowe, who is not only a guru of social tools and a great writer, is also a friend of Sam Lawrence and April Donato, Blackbox Republic founders.

Stowe says:

This is a community that is likely to have specific needs that will be underserved by other solutions, specifically the eHarmony and other dating services, geared toward the American dream of finding Mr or Ms Right, and promptly getting married.

Read Stowe Boyd’s review of BlackBox Republic. His post is eloquent, informative and far more articulate and thorough than I’m capable of.

If that wasn’t enough, a whole slew of people, from social media guru Chris Brogan to Oliver Marks at collaboration 2.0, are writing about the launch.

Oliver says:

Blackbox Republic is arguably an Apple product to Facebook’s Windows look & feel: a much more intimately crafted, fuller featured personal user interface which should appeal to Apple generation sensibilities.

That sums up my feelings about how PlentyofFish compares to OKCupid.

BBR has room for everyone, but is not for everyone. Definitely catering to non-mainstream folks, it will soon feature a constellation of micro-communities, or groups, called Camps. BBR doesn’t don’t tell people how to organize their camps; we’ll do it ourselves, thankyouverymuch.

There are four corners to the (black) box: vouching, gifting, irl (iphone et al, short-range networking) and events (promoters and yourself). Kind of a cross between the old Matchmaker communities and Facebook groups or fan pages. Some of the functionality is rolling out after the launch, which is more targeted towards founders (if you find me, say hello).

persona-screenshot.jpgBlackBox Republic’s reputation system, called vouching, makes Adult Friend Finder, Fling and the rest of the adult dating sites seem all the more like the hooker and spam-filled scamlands they really are. I am not mounting my high horse here. There are many, many people who will join these sites and have no intention of actually meeting anyone. They get their thrills from being voyeurs and sending a few emails to women (or men, or transgendered folks) they never in a million years would talk to otherwise. Fling and AFF have correctly identified this market and gone after it with gusto.

But for the rest of us, Blackbox Republic’s vouching makes it easier to trust people you’ve just met, either across town or across the globe. Like testimonials that matter, and we’re written by the marketing department.

Blockbox Republic features three levels of privacy controls. Sliders display your current status, a nice touch. A lot of these features simply need to be experienced to understand how powerful they could be. Notice how I say could be. BBR was not conceived in a vacuum, but it’s always a crapshoot whether or not the public will react favorably once the early adopters have gotten their fill and the masses start to show up. Just look at Google Wave.

Gifting is, well, gifting, with a twist. You don’t simply consume your gifts; they can be displayed for all to see on your Gift Shelf. Your gifts might reflect a certain aspect of your personality. A hello kitty figure would say one thing; a ticket to a burlesque show would say something else about you entirely. Virtual for now, gifts will be more “real” in the future.

As for eHarmony and any sort of scientific matching, Blackbox says, No Thanks. They will be providing all the features they feel necessary to accurately reflect a person’s tastes and preferences and the associated communications channels to connect people. All without the questions, tests and science that’s come to signify serious dating. Remember this isn’t a dating site, it’s more of a social network where dating can happen.

I have never seen so many Internet/socialmedia people writing about a new social/dating hybrid. Part of that is because Sam is a known entity in the first degree of BurningMan/Internet circles. Sam was CMO at Jive Software, SVP GAD at McCann Erickson, VP Business Development at EURO RSCG, VP of Operations at 3Com, VP of Marketing at CNET, and Director of Dell’s Online Consumer Business. He was named a INVESP top 100 Influential Marketer in 2008.

Everyone I’ve talked to about BBR has nothing but glowing remarks for both founders. This goes a long way towards their credibility. It doesn’t hurt that they reached out to the blogosphere many months ago, gave a stellar briefing and made it easy for us to want to help them out. Their pre-launch press section is chock-full of exactly what bloggers and media need to write a story.

Dating and social startups should take away some free pointers here. BBR did a brilliant job with their pre-launch publicity and it shows, just watch how much press they receive in coming weeks.

Speaking of helping them out, go join Blackbox Republic. It’s only $5 and you’re going to see how a site goes from zero members to thousands in a very short time. This could be a great case study for the online dating industry. Great exposure from Spark PR and bloggers all lined up to the point of breaking embargo.

Why is everyone excited about BBR? It’s because the service is interesting, run by amazingly talented people and there is an actual story here. This isn’t some new generic site copying everyone else with zero budget and little understanding of how community, marketing, and technology need to effortlessly combine to drive a successful startup.

Blackbox Republic is a big zag to the dating/social industry’s usual zigs. It’s the anti-Match/PeopleMedia/eHarmony/Meetic/POF.

The last time I remember a site launching like this was Suicide Girls, still one of the best art-sleaze sites out there. Blackbox Republic feels like it’s shooting for the lofty goal of Nerve.com 2.0, with a unique twist, or kink, as it may be.

Where it ends up nobody knows. What we do know is that balancing sex and society and social networking and dating has never quite been done like this and it’s going to be fun to watch.

Now go sign up. Consider it your new community (welcome home), market research (expense it) or just something new to try if you’re tired of general dating and social networking sites and consider yourself outside of the mainstream.