The professional networking site Zerply is gathering pace. The site came out of Beta in the summer and is now being considered as a very viable alternative to LinkedIn; we’re not talking ‘killer’ proportions just yet, but there is potential.

Numerous commentators have spoken positively about the service, and the figures that the company released regarding their Beta stage back this up. Over ten thousand individuals joined the service in this period, with 77% of them maintaining an active profile page. That’s a pretty good retention rate by anyone’s standard.

So why’s it proving a hit? Firstly, people it seems are falling out of love with LinkedIn, not only over privacy issues, but also the direction its evolution is going. This has meant that web-savvy professionals have been keeping their eye open. And that eye was caught by Zerply.

Zerply is attractive. It is has a considered and elegantly designed user interface that while visually pleasing is also very functional. And importantly for those moving from other networks, notably LinkedIn, there is a one-click import information service. Thus re-entering reams of information about yourself isn’t necessary.

The looks of Zerply are certainly a strong point, with many designers being among the early adopters of the site. There are numerous comments across blog entries commenting on how Zerply allows your Digital CV to be attractive once more, as well as plenty of calls to integrate a feature allowing the displaying of portfolios. And that is really what the service is about; it’s an online business card, but a really stylish one like Paul Allen’s. This is only the beginning though. Co-founder Christofer Karltorp sees the profiles offering predominantly an initial value to the end user. The future is about being open, social and visual, giving Zerply members a space for professional presentation, as well as valuable networking and communication.

This is already happening to degree. You can already start hooking up with the like minded by searching locations, skills and importantly tags describing specific skills or talents you might have. And what is most striking is the overall sentiment that flows through the site as you browse profiles. LinkedIn feels like an interview, whereas Zerply feels like a chat about collaborative possibilities. It’s professional, don’t be misled by that analogy, but it isn’t necessarily formal.

It is, in fact, exactly as stated on their blog (appropriately named Serious Play) just beside the sign-up button, “Zerply is a professional network built around people who love what they do.” Count me in…