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Top Social Networking Websites

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facebook
It was 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg started asking his fellow Harvard University students to try out his new idea known as "the facebook." The online community allowed his peers to create personal profiles, search for profiles and invite others from the university to join. It was a smashing success almost immediately.
In 2006, Facebook opened its virtual doors to anyone with a registered e-mail address.
Not content to rest upon his accomplishments, Zuckerberg continued to push for new features. One of the most revolutionary was creating an application programming interface (API) for third-party developers. Suddenly, programmers could design applications that could tap into Facebook's massive population. Applications range from simple games and diversions to clever marketing campaigns.
In 2009, Facebook acquired FriendFeed and began to incorporate its aggregation services into Facebook profiles. Facebook is still a private company -- in early 2010, two major investors announced that Facebook would not seek an initial public offering (IPO) in 2010. Looks like you'll have to wait a while longer to get your hands on Facebook stock.
In short: Facebook has become the most visited social networking site in the world, receiving more than 10 million unique visitors than MySpace in January 2009, making it the No. 1 social networking site on our list.
MySpace
MySpace isn't the oldest online social network, but it helped define them -- and it incorporates many different Web services into a comprehensive package. Every MySpace profile comes with the ability to post blogs, news items and status updates and create rich, detailed user profiles. Members can post and share pictures, videos and music, plus can create groups and invite other members to join.
But what makes MySpace stand out from the crowd is the sweet sound of free marketing. For bands and unsigned performers, MySpace is a sort of virtual audition stage to debut new tracks, share information or arrange special shows for their fans.
In late 2009, the news broke that MySpace would begin to use Facebook Connect, an API developed by the site's largest rival in the social community market. Could this mean MySpace will shift more toward being a content site for musicians than a social networking site?
twitter
Twitter is an online environment where users can create profiles, fill them with information and then build a network of people they "follow" (and a band of others who follow them).
Twitter sends messages between users via the Short Message Service (SMS), better known as text messaging. Members send their texts through Twitter to those they allow to follow them. The messages, called Tweets, are super short: only 140 charters or shorter (there are technically 160 characters for use, but the first 20 are there to make room for user names in messages.)
The new phenomenon is called microblogging and it's incredibly popular.
"Even the president of the United States has a Facebook fan page and uses Twitter to reach the American public where he has over 262,000 followers," says Brenda Powell, president and founder of the company Social Networking Girls.
All sorts of famous people are on Twitter. If you sign up for an account, you can follow astronauts, scientists, athletes, musicians, actors and writers. Or you can ignore the celebrities and focus on your friends.
Some Twitterers use the service to arrange parties or other events. Others just like to keep their friends up to speed on what's going on in their lives. The messages can be sent via phone, through the Twitter Web site or one of hundreds new desktop or smart phone widgets.
linkedin-logo
LinkedIn is a social networking site designed for professionals. It boasts a membership of more than 35 million people and claims that executives from every Fortune 500 company has member profiles on the site. The profiles focus on members' professional experience and skills.
But does everyone use it to their full potential? Maybe. Maybe not.
"I'm sure there are people who have an account and profile on LinkedIn, and do nothing more than accept the occasional introduction to connect, and have been prospected as a candidate,” says Jason Alba, CEO of the job search organizer site JibberJobber.com.
"If it were me," he continues, "I'd be much more aggressive, however, and have a more proactive LinkedIn strategy, which would include growing my network, searching for people in my target companies, using LinkedIn Answers, participating in groups, etc."
The site also supports activities beyond networking with potential employers, employees or clients. For example, LinkedIn provides a platform that allows members to collaborate on projects - a virtual meeting room of sorts.
hi5
As the fastest-growing social networking site in the world for the first half of 2008, Hi5 is the largest site of its kind that you may have never heard of. The site grew 78 percent in the first half of 2008 alone.
Based in San Francisco, Hi5 launched in 2003 and was turning a profit by 2004. By 2005, the site had 10 million members. While sites like Facebook and MySpace began to dominate the U.S. social networking scene, Hi5 began to look at other opportunities internationally.
In 2006, it launched a Spanish version of the site to great success. Versions of the site in other languages soon followed. This new focus paid off. Hi5 became the most popular social networking site in Mexico and many Latin American countries. Like many other social networking sites, members create profiles, share photos, play games and post messages.
friendster-logo
Friendster was one of the first sites to introduce the concept of online social networking to the Web. Jonathan Abrams conceived of the site and launched it in 2002, just two years after the infamous dotcom crash. Abrams saw untapped potential on the World Wide Web -- you could get to know the people your friends know and expand your social network.
Abrams' goal was to create a site that anyone could use. One of his inspirations for Friendster came from the way his friends networked in the real world. He wanted to create an equally organic experience using the Web. That meant designing a streamlined design and interface.
Friendster gained popularity quickly. In 2003, the Internet search giant Google offered to purchase Friendster but a deal couldn't be reached. Years later, the two companies would sign a $20 million deal that would incorporate Google search services on the Friendster Web site.
Alas, Friendster lost its dominant position in the U.S. social networking site market when MySpace's popularity skyrocketed, though it still has a strong user base in the U.S. and continues to be very popular in Asia.
orkut
Orkut is an online social network owned by Google. Originally based in California, the site now calls Brazil home. While 17 percent of its traffic is from the United States, it never really took off in the U.S.
But Brazilians adopted the site as their preferred online social network -- more than 50 percent of all traffic to Orkut comes from Brazil. According to the analytics firm comScore, more than 20 million Brazilians visited Orkut in September 2008, making it the most popular Web site in Brazil. In that same month, only 893,000 Brazilians visited MySpace.
Why has Orkut become so popular in Brazil? One theory is that the site's name is easy for Portuguese speakers to pronounce, though they pronounce it "or-KOO-chee." Another is that there are no ads on Orkut pages.
Orkut is also popular in India, which supplies another 17 percent of the site's traffic. While it may never gain a firm standing in the United States, it's still a success story.
bebo
Bought by AOL, this social network service has been gaining ground in the United States, it’s been nothing but good news and consistent growth. Extraordinarily popular in the UK, Bebo is beginning to give some of the other social networking sites a real run for their money. Like other sites you can personalize your profile, add apps, set privacy settings and join groups.
However, we found that navigation and friend finding on Bebo to be a bit difficult, and although they take great pride in their security settings, we found that it was a little overboard.
Bebo’s security is seriously locked down; therefore, the chance of receiving unsolicited email from creepy people around the world is cut to almost nothing. In the time we had our Bebo account we did not get one message that wasn’t from a person we didn’t know, or a friend of a friend. Bebo encourages you to know your friends in real life before they become part of your network online.
netlog
Netlog is a European social networking site with more than 35 million user and is relatively unknown in the United States. Here you can set up a profile, add pictures join clans (groups), upload videos and listen to music all while networking with your friends. We particularly liked that the site is completely advertisement free.
The minimum age to join Netlog is 13. You can adjust your profile’s security settings to be as open or private as you want. You can adjust if your profile can be found using a simple search, or who specifically can access your profile, or if only people in your age range and location can contact you. You can also use the Netlog whitelists and blacklists to accept or block specific users.
We found that Netlog is not an advocate of meeting and networking with people you don’t already know. However, this makes things a little difficult when searching for friends as well. Netlog encourages you to upload your email address books and they will find your friends for you. You can also do a search using the keyword box, although we found that method to be terribly inefficient.
The currency of Netlog is credits. You can purchase credits and use them inside the service for additional features like putting aspects of your profile in the spotlight. You also get free credits when your friends register with Netlog based on your invite or when you participate in various Netlog activities.
Netlog also offers a free download of their Netlog 24 toolbar that alerts you when you have a message or new friend request without being signed into the Netlog website.
Additionally, you can change your profile by adjusting colors and background or you can chose from a selection of pre-made skins. Unlike MySpace, you cannot add HTML or CSS code to farther customize your profile.
Netlog’s networking features are typical of a social networking site including blogs and personal videos. You can join clans which act like groups, but we felt they were a little unusual and organized poorly. The categories are very general and there is no “drill down” method. For example, when we selected the Sports clan there were just pages and pages of groups. We would have liked the ability to narrow or filter our search specifically for Soccer or Baseball, and then by specific teams.
source: news.discovery.com
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