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."
Below is a curated list of the best current alternatives for people with moderate computers skills concerned with privacy, control of their information, and networking outside the control of governments or corporations.
App.net - Positioned as a subscription-based advertising-free microblogging service, App.net was founded last year as a purer alternative to Twitter, after a number of commercial policy changes rankled users. Popular with the techie community due to its open nature, the biggest challenge facing App.net will be attracting users to its forum, but the canvas is there.
Bebo - 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.
Four Square - 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.
FriendFeed - FriendFeed is a service that makes it easy to share with friends online. It offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends. FriendFeed enables you to discover and discuss the interesting stuff your friends find on the web. Read and share however you want — from your email, your phone or even from Facebook. Publish your FriendFeed to your website or blog, or to services you already use, like Twitter.
Friendio - Friendio is a social networking utility that helps you share with friends & family. It's private and keeps your circles between those within it.
Habbo - 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.
Ning - Built from the ground up for social, Ning’s scalable hosted platform gives you the tools and expertise you need to publish and connect with your community – all in one place. Easy. Powerful. Affordable. More than two million people have built a branded social network on Ning. Many of these customers now enjoy thriving online communities. Ning provides an incredibly reliable, popular, and easy-to-use platform so you can focus on cultivating your community.
- Pip.io has undergone a number of updates and changes since that time that have truly taken it to the next level. More than just a unifier or an information consolidator, Pip.io version 2.0 actually gives users a way to instant message and video chat with each other from within the new system.
As soon as you log in to your Pip.io account, you’ll be prompted to input account detail and information for all your other social networking sites. Once you’re linked up, you’ll be able to start updating each of your social networking accounts from within the Pip.io app. Decide whether new posts should be public or private, and receive notices on Pip.io when new updates have been made on your other networks.
- Orkut is a social networking website that is owned and operated by Google. The service is designed to help users meet new and old friends and maintain existing relationships. Orkut also allows users form a group which other members can then join. Google is automatically creating new Orkut accounts for anyone that visits Orkut.com while already logged in to a Google account. If you also have a Google+ account, Google will take the data from it (your name and avatar) to auto-populate your new Orkut account.
Story of My Life - Story of My Life makes it easy and fun to create and share your favorite memories – stories, pictures, videos & more - and preserve them Forever. Story of My Life help you to write all of the different stories that make up your life, and enriching them with videos and pictures while securely storing and making them accessible - forever. With easy to use tools, privacy and access settings, you create social circles and bonds with all of the people important to your life. By connecting your Story to Family, Friends, Groups of Interest and others, you paint a vivid, panoramic view of your life, including those who mean something to you.
Tagged - Founded in 2004 and profitable since 2008, Tagged is a market leader in social discovery with over 300 million registered members in 220 countries who make over 100 million new social connections every month. Tagged is based in San Francisco. Tagged partners with members, parents and law enforcement to provide a customized social experience within a safer community platform. Through advanced network configurations, extensive privacy settings, specialized abuse response teams and Internet safety guides, Tagged collaborates with members to maintain a safer online community.
The resources and support provided on this site are designed to assist members in their efforts to stay safe online and to offer interactive tools resulting in the highest quality customer care.
Tagged makes social discovery products that enable anyone to meet and socialize with new people.
Diaspora - 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. Since August 27th, 2012, all of Diaspora's development has been done entirely by volunteers out in the open. This has allowed the project to grow in remarkable ways. New features, designs, and improvements have made their way into Diaspora's code, and as such, the project has evolved far beyond what its original founders could have ever expected.
Meet people from all over the world who love the Internet and want to see it free as much as you do.
aSmallWorld - Founded in 2004 as one of the first social networks, ASMALLWORLD re-launched in the spring of 2013 as a subscription-based ($105 annually) international members-only travel and social club. ASMALLWORLD offers its members content, privileges, and community in over 100 cities around the world. Membership requires an invitation from an existing member or an approved membership application by our international committee of trustees.
Website facilitates member connections, provides an ever-growing list of City Guides, and allows members to share their favorite travel tips and seek travel advice.
TripAdvisor - It might not come across foremost as a social network, but this immeasurably helpful travel site is stuffed like an overpacked suitcase full of socially interactive forums, reviews, tips, travel guides, destination photos… you name it. Heavily integrated with Facebook, TripAdvisor makes researching your next getaway a fun and easy experience.
TrustWorks - TrustWorks is a software company that enables private conversations within enterprise and social networks. When a user needs assistance on any personal or business matter, the system sends a confidential message to one member of the community who has the relevant knowledge. This contrasts the “news feed” model of Facebook, where users read as much or as little as they choose; it also contrasts the “email to all” model of LinkedIn Answers, which sends questions to many people. Users ask questions about travel destinations, personal health problems, recommendations and referrals, as well as serious business questions.