Microsoft has debuted a new software application that could rival popular Twitter apps, those who've seen the app in action say.

Vine has been launched in a small beta in Seattle and is described as a hyperlocal, personalised message and alert system.

Seattle Times reporter Brier Dudley claims it could be considered a contender as game-changing social Web application.

Vine is intended "to be a dashboard that people can use to keep tabs of their family, friends, activities and major events in their community", says Dudley.

A PC widget, Vine displays a map of the user's community and the status of their contacts and has buttons to send alerts or reports, which can be sent and received on the PC or as text messages.

Microsoft's emphasis is offering the service to emergency management officials, but in the future there's potential for individuals to use it as a central hub to keep track of local news, data feeds and updates from services such as Twitter and Facebook.

We will keep you posted.