Don't Like Facebook? Alternative Social Networking Sites
What Are Alternatives to Facebook?
There could be may reasons why you would look for social networking alternatives to Facebook. Perhaps you don't like Facebook's admittedly rather shocking privacy settings; maybe you think Facebook is too full of junk and has lost its original purpose, or perhaps you just like trying out the next big thing, and Facebook is no longer it.
Whatever your reasoning, we will look here at some alternatives, both the existing rivals to Facebook and the new kids on the block.
Facebook is kind of like prison. You spend all day staring at walls and getting poked by people you don’t know.— Unknown
What Is a Social Network?
Before we can look at alternative social networks, we need to understand exactly what a social network is. Dictionary.com defines a social network as:
a website where one connects with those sharing personal or professional interests, place of origin, education at a particular school, etc.
Using that definition, there are a great many social networks, including innumerable web forums. I'm going to be looking at the more typical social networks where you can add friends, link to people, share information/photos, etc.
Social Media Sites
Social media sites are similar to social networking sites. In fact, these terms are often used interchangeably. They may also be sites that concentrate on the sharing of media such as video clips, photos, and music.
In this article, we will be looking at both social media sites and social networking sites.
Why I Dislike Facebook: A Video
Current Facebook Rivals
There are hundreds of social networks, including quite a few 10 million + member networks. Different countries and regions have their own popular social networks (Qzone and WeChat in China, Cyworld in South Korea, Mixi in Japan, etc.). In the Western world, there are several alternatives to Facebook:
- LinkedIn: A professional social networking site with approximately 347 million users worldwide. Good for maintaining professional contacts with colleagues, clients, and others, LinkedIn can also be used for finding jobs and recruiting employees.
- Twitter: While smaller and more narrow in focus, Twitter is hardly an also-ran. At last count, it boasted over 284 million active users and 500 million tweets a day. It is growing at least as fast as Facebook and is causing quite a lot of waves with a well-publicized role in revolutionary movements in Egypt, Iran, and other countries.
- Pinterest: This platform revolves around the concept of "pinning" interesting photos, web pages, articles, and other content onto virtual noticeboards, then sharing them with people. You can create different pinboards for different interests, events, collections, or whatever you want. You can view things on other people's pinboards and repin them on your own. Pinterest has over 72.8 million users and is growing rapidly.
- Instagram: This isn't just a social network, but it is being used as one by many. It's an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that lets users share images, videos, and words. Instagram says 300 million people use its photo app every month, with 70% of them coming from outside the US.
- Tumblr: Tumblr is part blog and part social networking site. Users can create their own blogs and follow others' in a similar way to social networks. Last I checked, it had 420 million users, probably 30-50 of which are active, and 217 million blogs.
- MySpace: Originally the big name in social networking, it is most popular with young people and has 50.6 million monthly active members. Following a re-branding, it is now a music-orientated site targeted at young people.
- Tagged: A social networking site with approximately 100 million users (but no clear data on how many are active), it is now also known as if(we). It was the subject of significant controversy in 2009 for allegedly using member's email accounts to repeatedly send invites to all of their email contacts.
If you do open an account at another social networking site, will you still keep your Facebook account?
Will you still use Facebook?
The Next Big Thing in Social Networking?
These are the new kids on the block. There are many contenders to Facebook's crown, but to really have any major effect on that hegemony, newcomers have to have a different take on the social networking theme, their own unique selling point, and something that makes them stand out from the crowd. Here are just a few of the contenders.
- Diaspora: This is a nonprofit, user-owned and distributed social network that gives you full ownership and control of all the data, photos, writing, etc. that you post. This is in direct contrast to Facebook, whose policy is to use your data and posts however it likes.
- Ello: An invite-only ad-free alternative to existing social networks, Ello is still in the beta testing phase but is still getting a lot of attention. Created by a small group of artists who'd grown tired of clutter, negativity, data mining, and ads. You won't be forced to watch videos or see ads.
- Foursquare: There has certainly been a lot of noise about this recently: Location-based services are based on the mobile phone. The game or app recognises and uses your location. In Foursquare (with 45 million registered users and about 5 billion active ones), you collect badges for visiting different places and you can even become "mayor" of places (like your local coffee shop) by being the person who visits most often. Location-based services are starting to be used by shops and other businesses to attract customers.
- Ning: An online platform that allows individuals and organizations to create their own custom social networks. Create and design your own customized hub to connect with your community.
- Path: A social network that limits you to 50 friends. The idea of this is to allow you to interact with and share your photos, thoughts, and your life, really, with only the people you are closest to.
Interest-Based Social Networks
A good example of a specialist social network is Goodreads, a social network for book lovers, with over 20 million users.
Here's a partial list of the options that are out there:
- BlackPlanet: The largest social network for African-Americans for matchmaking, job postings, and discussion forums, with nearly 20 million users.
- Care2: A network for social activists to connect with other people, organizations, and businesses around the world to make an impact, with a membership of about 15 million users.
- CircleMe: A way to connect online with people who share your passions. A social network that isn't based on who you know but rather, what you love.
- DeviantART: An online collection of all kinds of art: "The world's largest online social community for artists and art enthusiasts, allowing people to connect through the creation and sharing of art."
- Flickr: Widely used by photographers to share the images they make with an art-loving community.
- Flitocracy: An online fitness game that allows you to enjoy friendly competition in exercise, even when you're exercising alone. "Fitocracy's mission is to make fitness a more fun, more addictive experience."
- Flixter: A network of movie enthusiasts that allows you to share, recommend, and discuss and movies with online friends.
- Foodspotting: A visual guide to good food and where to find it. Instead of reviewing restaurants, you can instead recommend specific dishes and see what specific menu items others recommend. A great way to discover the best thing on the menu!
- Flipora: A service that connects you with others to exchange recommendations of online content, based on your personalized based on your interests and web activity. Basically, a way internet surfers can connect and share what they've found.
- Goodreads: A free website for book lovers. Members compile virtual bookshelves of their favorite books and browse others' bookshelves, write and read book reviews, rate books they've read, start or join a book club or discussion group, contact an author, and even post their own writing.
- MyHeritage: A social family tree that makes it easier for users to find their relatives and allows them to share genealogy, photos, and discussion with extended family.
- MyLife (formerly Reunion.com): Helps users find old friends, classmates, relatives, and former workmates.
- Last.FM: A social network of about 30 million music fans. Keeps track of what you like to and posts your lists to other social networks like Facebook.
- Meetup: This site makes it easy for you to find people with common interests online and actually meet with them offline! Enter your zip code and your topic of interest and Meetup helps arrange a place and time to meet. For those for whom virtual connections are not entirely satisfying, this may be the way of the future.
- Quora: A question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, and edited by community members: "the best place to find the answer to anything you want to know."
- Reddit: A website where community members submit content (questions, pieces of writing or art, images, etc.) onto a public bulletin board and connect with interested others.
- TagsChat: A new social network based on interests that lets you find and chat with new friends who share your interests.
- Wattpad: A writing community in which users can post articles, stories, fan fiction, and poems, giving them an opportunity to connect with a wider audience.
- WordPress: A blogging community where users post their writing and engage in conversations with like-minded friends.
- Zynga: Their mission is "to connect the world through games." A virtual playhouse for those who like to connect by playing games with other people.
Facebook is not your friend, it is a surveillance engine.— Richard Stallman
Google+: The Anti-Facebook?
When I first wrote this article, the popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter was seen as largely unassailable, with the rest squabbling for scraps. Then Google entered the fray with Google Plus (or Google+ as it is often written). In its first month, despite being in an invite-only beta phase, it amassed 25 million users. This was the number Google cited, but it's not an accurate depiction since every Gmail address was automatically given a corresponding Google+ account. In other words, the vast majority of Google+ "participants" have never even logged in. Unfortunately, there is no clear data about how many active users Google+ really has, but the latest estimates suggest that between 4 to 6 million people engage, interact, and post publicly on the platform.
Google Plus is not just a Facebook clone. It is a social network that has good privacy settings built in and combines the best features of both Facebook and Twitter. You can share posts, photos, and videos with your friends and family, and you can also follow people you don't know (like celebrities, your favourite writers, sports stars) like you do on Twitter.
If you like, you can write posts and publish them publically like on Twitter, but with no word limit and with the ability to include photos and other content in your posts. In that respect, it can be a bit like a blog, too. The consensus seems to be that on Google Plus, you get much more interaction, comments, and feedback than you do on a blog post or a tweet. Several friends have told me they now use Google Plus because it is a good place for "intelligent conversation," and I would have to agree with this assessment.
At the heart of Google+ is "circles," the idea that you can add friends, family, contacts, and people you are following into different circles. This allows you to view and share posts with whichever groups of people you wish.
Looking for a Different Kind of Social Network? Try Harnu!
Harnu is a different breed entirely from most of the networks covered on this page. It aims to connect people from different countries so we can find out more about the world and different cultures. Each person is registered from the country they live in which makes it easy to ask questions of others and answer questions about your country if you wish!
As an example, say you are from the USA and you want a question answered by someone in Nigeria. Maybe you are looking to travel there, start doing business with the country, or just want to find out what it is like to live there. You then ask a question to the people in Nigeria and someone (possibly several people) will write responses. Likewise, people from other countries might ask questions about your country, which you will be able to view and answer if you wish. A very simple, but clever idea. The company is still in its infancy but has the potential to really get the people of the world talking to each other, which can't be a bad thing.
Have I Missed Anything?
If you know of a good social network, particularly if it is new or creating a bit of a buzz, let me know in the comments. If it's good, I'll add it here.
© 2011 nakmeister