Alternative to Facebook?
There could be may reasons why you would look for social networking website 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 one of many other potential reasons you hate Facebook. 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.
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 they 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.
Google Plus – an Alternate Facebook?
When I first wrote this article earlier on in 2011, Facebook and Twitter were seen as largely unassailable, with the rest squabbling around 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. The latest count, as of April 2012, is that it has 170 million users, though there is some doubt over how often many of those use the service. So what is it all about?
Google Plus is not just a Facebook clone. It is a new social network, built from the ground up with good privacy settings built in. It combines the best features of both Facebook and Twitter. You can share posts, photos, video etc with your friends and family like on Facebook, but you can also follow people you don’t know (celebrities, your favourite writers, sports stars…) like you can on Twitter.
If you like you can write posts and publish them to the world like 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 general consensus seems to be that on Google Plus you already get much more interaction, comments and feedback than you ever would on a blog or twitter account. Several friends have told me they now use Google Plus because it is a good place for ‘intelligent conversation’ – I would have to agree with that assessment.
At the heart of this 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.
If you haven’t already tried Google Plus, I’ll soon publish 10 reasons why you should give it a go. Even if you’ve tried it out in its early days when it was something of a ‘ghost town’, and not been back since, you might be pleasantly surprised now.
Interest Based Social Networks
Many social networking commentators believe that 2013 will be the year of the ‘interest based social network’, i.e. niche social networks catering for people interested in a particular hobby or pastime. A good example of a specialist social network is Goodreads, a social network for book lovers with over 12 million users. For more information, stay tuned to check out my upcoming article on interest based social networks in 2014.
Current Facebook Rivals
There are literally hundreds of social networks, including quite a lot of 10 million + member networks. Different countries and regions have different social networks which are popular (douban in China, Cyworld in South Korea, Mixi in Japan etc etc.). In the Western world however there are several large social networking alternatives to Facebook:
Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social network, despite being invite only (though there are ways around this, like accessing through Facebook). It 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 boards. In February 2012, Pinterest had 17 million unique visitors in the month, and is growing rapidly. Stay tuned to check my upcoming article about it – A Look at Pinterest – The Hot New Social Network
While smaller and more narrow in focus, twitter is hardly an also ran, it is growing at least as fast as Facebook and is causing quite a lot of waves, with a well publicised role in revolutionary movements in Egypt, Iran and other countries.
Linked-in is a Professional social networking site with approximately 80 million users worldwide. Good for maintaining professional contacts with colleagues, clients and others. Also used for recruiting work and employees.
Originally the big name in social networking. It is most popular with young people, and has 100 million + members. Following a re-branding, it is now specifically stated as being music orientated and targeting young people.
General social networking site with around 117 million users. Bebo stands for Blog Early, Blog Often. Users get their own profile page and can add photos, blogs, videos and questionnaires amongst other things.
Social networking site for teenagers. 200 million users. Habbo was previously called Habbo Hotel, and mimics a virtual hotel which users enter. They can chat in chat rooms that are mocked up to be cinemas, restaurants and dance clubs, with virtual bots bringing you drinks or serving at your table.
Social networking site with 100 million users. It was the subject of significant controversy in 2009 for allegedly accessing member’s email accounts and repeatedly sending invites to all of their email contacts.
Tumblr is part blog and part social networking site. Users can create their own blogs and follow other people’s blogs in a similar way to social networks. As of February 2012, it had 46 million blogs on it’s site, and more than 18 billion posts.
The Next Big Thing in Social Networking
Or the new kids on the block. There are many pretenders to Facebook’s crown, but to really have any major effect on Facebook’s hegemony, newcomers have to have a different take on the social networking theme, their own unique selling point, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. Here are just a few of the contenders.
If there is one thing that deserves the label ‘next big thing in social networking’ it is location based services. There has certainly been a lot of noise about it recently. Location based services are mobile phone based, where the game or app recognises your location and uses that. In Four Square you collect badges for visiting different places, 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 offer vouchers to those visiting.
This is a new social network, still in development phase, which gives you full ownership and control of all data, photos, writing etc which you put on there. This is in contrast to Facebook, that effectively uses your data however it likes after you’ve put it on there.
Path is a social network which limits you to 50 friends. The idea of this is to be able to share your photos, thoughts, your life really, with just the people you are closest to. It is based on the theory, that people generally only really trust at most about 50 people.
Looking for a Different Kind of Social Network? Try Harnu!
Harnu is a different breed of social network entirely from most of the rest covered on this page. It aims to connect people from different countries, so we can find out more about different countries and the people that live in them. Each person is registered as 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 their. You then ask a question to people in Nigeria, and someone (possibly several people) will write responses. Likewise, people from other countries might ask questions about the USA, which you will be able to view and answer if you wish. A very simple, but clever idea. It is still in its infancy, but has potential to really get the people of the world talking to each other, which can’t be a bad thing.