Seeking seconds in social networks

Even when discussing social networks in 2011, it can be hard to get past the “F-Word:” Facebook.

Despite some unfavorable attention, including the film “The Social Network” and worries about personal data usage, Facebook surpassed Google as the world’s most visited website in 2010 and Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s “person of the year.”

With the company’s enormous popularity, it can be hard to discover the small social networks. Its largest competitor, MySpace, cut nearly half of its staff two days ago.

The Oracle looks at four old, new and startup social networking sites that students might also “like” to know about.

Diaspora*

Students may have concerns about public availability of personal information on websites like Facebook – which was what prompted other students to create the open-source social network Diaspora*.

Four New York University programmers started the site in summer 2010 through the fundraiser Kickstarter after raising more than 2,000 percent of their $10,000 goal.

The site’s software has you set up a server – or a “seed” – with detailed code instructions. You can also be invited to existing seeds, which might be more ideal if you have a tech-savvy friend.

Once launched, Diaspora* lets users post status updates and photos, comment on them and keep them within secure groups called “aspects.”

Reviews like the one on mashable.com of the public alpha version have noted a minimal, incomplete feeling, yet the site is continually being tooled on and the guarantee of privacy might be enough for some.

Foursquare

Formed in early 2009, Foursquare has gained more than 5 million users in less than two years and has gained recognition along with the big three – Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

The location-based social network does status updates and Tweets one better and actually lets friends know users’ current locations in real-time.

Users can additionally offer tips on what to do at certain locales, win badges in games and even become elected “mayor” of a frequently visited area.

For instance, the USF Library has 18 tips with 2,480 check-ins, while the Marshall Student Center has 12 tips with 2,234 check-ins.

Even newspapers like the New York Times and USA Today have started incessantly using Foursquare, which the Onion parodied in its piece, “New Social Network Changing the Way Oh, Christ, Forget it.”

Last.fm

By far the longest-running website on this list, music community Last.fm launched in 2002 and now reaches 300 million users a month.

The site’s radio works much like Pandora Radio – it starts with one song from a selection of thousands, which then links to tracks within related genres.

Yet Last.fm offers far more of a social network, as users can show other people the songs they’re listening to on iTunes, MP3 players and other music players through “scrobbling.”

From there, each user’s compatibility in music taste to another is calculated, and the website also allows public “shouts” and private messages for talking.

Since music was one of the few advantages the struggling Myspace ever held over Facebook, audiophiles may want to make a profile here or another online music community like playlist.com.

Path

One of the most popular features of social network sites is the ability to share photos with friends, while among the least popular is that not all of these “friends” are actual friends.

Mobile network Path tries to amend this problem by offering the ability to take, tag and share photos, but limiting users’ friend lists to 50 people.

Path’s website claims the number came from Oxford psychology professor Robin Dunbar’s research, which states 50 is the rough number of people we can trust in life.

The network is meant as a mobile photo sharer – eitherthrough an iPhone app or a phone’s web browser – and it should give you peace of mind that the wrong person isn’t looking at your pictures.

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