New social networks offer alternative to Facebook

Mark Schierbecker
Staff Writer

With 800 million active users, Facebook has dominated the social networking scene. The website founded in a Harvard dorm is now firmly rooted in the habits of the average web user.

The social media-sphere is a crowded market. According to Brian Solis, an analyst at the social media advisory firm Altimeter Group, “Nobody wants another social network right now.”

That hasn’t stopped developers from trying to capitalize in the social network market. Everyone from the big players, Microsoft and Google, to web startups like Pinterest are trying to be the next great social network.


Launched in March 2010, Pinterest created a social image-sharing website, not a very novel concept but for the fact its target market is women.

Pinterest allows users to curate and share images from other websites by “pinning” them with the site’s Pin It button. The images are then posted to image boards for users to comment on them.

The result is an endlessly engaging website full of intrigue. A user browsing the site may find everything from recipes to meme-ish lolcat to bizarre artwork and food creations.

According to comScore, Pinterest broke though the 11 million user mark this January making it the fastest website ever to break 10 million users. According to Alexa Internet at the time of this publication, Pinterest is the 62nd most visited website in the world and the 16th most visited website in the United States.

Google Plus

Google Plus is Google’s answer to the threat from Facebook.

Plus hopes to lure users away from Facebook with its visually pleasing, minimalistic interface, and integration with Google services like YouTube and Gmail.

Plus offers some features that are unique to the service:

  • Circles sorts friends and acquaintances into manageable lists. Circles, like many of the features on Google Plus, supports drag-and-drop functionality, so sorting friends takes seconds instead of hours. Circles’ secondary feature is to allow users to tune-out certain groups in their status feed, making it easier to find relevant posts.
  • Hangouts, a group video chat service, allows up to 10 people to converse in high quality audio and video.
  • Painless uploading. All photos on Android and iOS devices are uploaded automatically through the Google Plus mobile application. Google also has an integrated image editing tool that borrows features from Google’s own Picnik service.

Plus also matches some of Facebook’s and Twitter’s features par-for-par. For instance, the “Like” button has a “Plus One” button counterpart on Plus. Hashtag features are also supported.

Plus will be one of Google’s central area of development in the coming years and increased integration with other Google services is promised in the future.

Microsoft is making the great leap into Web 2.0 with its experimental new social network.

Powered by Bing, is a education-oriented research tool for students to collaborate and share using a full-featured set of online tools. is developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, a division of Microsoft Research. According to FUSE’s general manager Lili Cheng, attempts to bring some of the same tools used in the classroom to the Web. features Video Parties, a user-assembled collection of online videos to share with other users. Another feature is Montages, a tool that allows images from the Web to be assembled as a montage album.

Microsoft hasn’t committed to following through with a full-fledged network, though it is inviting University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University students and the general public to join the experiment. As of February, over 25,000 have joined.

Who will be the next great social network? The field is full of contenders.

“The market is always ripe for disruption,” said founder Chris Pirillo.

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