For those who missed it (most of the universe), article 1 was on micro-blogging sites.  This one will be about social networks.

The idea was to see what was out there beyond FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace – of which, my opinions are published on my blog.

It is worth noting that most of these sites have something equivalent to a micro-blog called status updates, pulses or something else.  If you do sign up to more than two or three social media sites, consider using Ping.fm to do your updates.  They did not ask me to say so, I am volunteering this because it is really, really useful.

Caveat: If nobody uses these sites, they could be the neatest things in the world, but who cares.  Ultimately this is where FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace have a massive advantage.

Tip of the Day: If you hate any of the big four, consider joining one of these social media sites just to spite them!

For each network, I’ve listed how many friends I found out of my gmail contact list (about 600 contacts).  For comparison, I have about 200 friends on FaceBook (and only add people I have actually met).

Plaxo (7 friends) – I like Plaxo.  First of all, 7 of my friends were already on it (which was more than MySpace).  The layout is simpler than FaceBook, and the profile page is great.  Like FriendFeed, it has the ability to pull in a bunch of your other public social media content (blog entries, micro-blogging, images, etc.), and inserts it into your public profile page.  I hope Plaxo catches on.

Friendster (2 friends) – Unlike most of the sites where I found an odd person who happened to have signed up years ago, on Friendster I found a friend who was very actively using this program – 164 friends in her network.  I get the feeling that some people really use this network.  At first glance, it seems to be a poorly designed FaceBook.  But dig a little, and there are some interesting built-in features over and above the standard FaceBook offerings, including classifieds, games, blogs, reviews, and “featured” friends.  I think it might actually be the most “feature intensive” social network out there.

Orkut (1 friend) – Google has an offering (experiment) in the social network space as well – shocking, huh.  Their micro-blogging program – Jaiku – is way better thank the mediocre Orkut, though.  I could not find anything amazingly cool, original or particularly interesting about Orkut, not even the name.  (In their defense, it is Beta.)  If this catches on, it will be because it is run by Google.

Bebo (0 friends) – If there is one thing in life I want to do, it is to connect with other people so we can talk about the hottest celebs.  Well good for Bebo to know what demographic they are targeting (note: not me), and to go after them fairly effectively.  Bebo is really pushing for me to find or invite friends, and I really can not think of a good reason to do so.

hi5 (1 friend) – In competition with Bebo for the teen market, I suppose.  Features include games and giving “fives” to your friends.  There is a “Stats” meter (so you can see how awesome you are compared to everyone else).  I’m pretty sure I won’t be frequenting this website very much.

Xanga (0 friends) – I wasn’t entirely sure whether to include this.  It is sort of a hybrid between a blog and a social network.  It is pretty neat, but sort of a strange animal in the social media jungle.

Yahoo! 360° (0 friends) – One of the disadvantages of having the old search engines get into the social network business is all the legacy baggage that you seem to drag along with you to the new platform.  Yahoo! is no exception.  While their profile pages are, in my opinion, the best designed, Yahoo! still thinks I live in the UK.  Also, Yahoo! has reserved the usernames on their social network for the eventuality of every Yahoo! user ever setting up an account there – thus, getting a decent username on their network is impossible.  Hi – I am tpholmes2001, and I live in Dublin.  In terms of Features, nothing special here.  Ironically, even though Yahoo! owns both, I couldn’t load my Flickr images onto my 360 profile – the option was there, but it didn’t work.  (Yahoo! wants you to know that this program is Beta.)

Yuku (0 friends) – You get “kudos” for doing stuff, and can compete in the “hall of fame” with other Yuku social climbers, I suppose.  I don’t really get it.  I don’t see much else on this site that is terribly exciting.  And it appears you cannot update your profile using Ping.fm, so I suspect I won’t be updating my profile here very often.  Perhaps I’m missing something.

Tagged (0 friends) – The people who started this website must have learned their trade pushing crack cocaine.  I started receiving the weirdest spam right away.  People checking me out.  Then, finally somebody bought me – how offensive is that.  I think this is a website for lonely single people with no lives.  I’m not sure.  But there is a pretty good (free) poker game on it – if you can wade past all the spam and juvenile nonsense.  As for me, I’d rather hang out with the intellectually superior regulars at Bebo or Hi5.