While it started out as an innovative social networking site, several blunders of management have led people to seek out Friendster alternatives. In some ways, it is a shame, since the service was the first to offer many of the same things that have made other successful networking sites popular.
A Synonym for Unrealized Potential
What exactly is wrong with Friendster? Simply put, it was a control freak. Beyond the usual terms-of-service that all sites have to control content, Friendster wanted also to control the way that people interacted. The site was designed to be made up of individuals who were real people and could share their experiences, pictures, videos, and blogs. Unfortunately, Friendster limited its users to only that level of interaction, and regularly removed any attempt to form "groups" - for example, a "We like these Friendster alternatives" group. A person could mention other sites on a profile - it was not a matter of competition - but users became frustrated that they had to network only through individuals and couldn't form larger bands of common interests.
So What are the Friendster Alternatives?
Many social networking sites have sprung up following the Friendster model. Still, there are enough individual differences enabling you to find something that will fill your needs. Many people who use social networking to promote their business or cause will actually use memberships in multiple services to increase their presence on the web.
No, that's not a mistype: the creators of tribe.net are very insistent that their site never be capitalized. The most similar to Friendster in terms of the structure, tribe is open to anyone. It avoids the mistakes of its predecessor by encouraging people to create groups organized by interest. The threaded messaging system (similar to bulletin boards and mailing lists) is used extensively to announce and discuss events and topics. Unlike later social networks, tribe.net is not used for any other forms of media beyond text and images. Initially individuals in the San Francisco area heavily populated the site (founded in 2003), but since then it has grown to thousands of "tribes" with members from all over the world.
In spite of a very ugly and hacked-together page design, MySpace.com has grown to be one of the top social networking sites out there, giving its members the ability to create interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. At one point MySpace was the sixth most popular website in the world - not among the alternatives to Friendster, among all websites, period - and accounted for 80% of all traffic to social networking sites. Also learning from the mistakes of Friendster, it allows pages to be created not only for individuals but also for events, organizations, and like-minded interests (such as "Fans of LOST" or "Supporters of Britney Spears").
The only real competitor with MySpace for the number one social networking site, Facebook was initially modeled after the "facebooks" that are used in high schools and colleges with small pictures. The site itself has grown exponentially since its creation in 2004, with many people finding it useful not only for the media-sharing capabilities that it provides but also as a platform for interactive programs that help people network through games, quizzes, and for social polls. Facebook also tends to be more geographically oriented than the other social networks, and many colleges and communities use it as a resource for planning "real-space" events ranging from political rallies to dinner and a movie.
For those more oriented towards business networking as opposed to social interactions, LinkedIn provides the same sort of profile and file-sharing capacities as tribe.net with the added advantage of geographical groupings to enable employers, contractors, and others to connect. It is also often used by college graduates to remain connected to each other as people travel to other jobs, and can be very useful in establishing a network of contacts for professional advantage. Because of its business focus, however, LinkedIn does not have the same popularity as the other social networks.
Google's own entry into the social networking arena, Orkut is very similar to MySpace and Facebook but with one major difference - most of its traffic actually comes from Brazil, followed by India. Like the other successful social networking sites, Orkut allows its users to congregate in communities based on whatever interest or issue they like. In addition, since Google owns it, it integrates very well with the other Google services on the web.
There are new social networking applications coming out every day, ranging from microblogging sites like Twitter to vlogging sites such as Oovoo. Some web applications that did not start out as social networking tools (such as Livejournal, Skype, and YouTube) have added some of the same functionality as Friendster to enable their users to be more connected. However, unless someone likes being an early adopter, trusting these new sites can be a risky investment of time and resources. With so many new applications, there are failures every day as well.
The best way to choose an alternative to Friendster is to identify the needs that can be filled by a social network - whether it is simple discussion of issues or sharing the latest video by a new band - and then finding the most established site that can provide those services.