33 Places to Hangout in the Social Networking Era

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Social networks have had giant growth spurts over the past couple of years, and it seems there's one for everyone: from dogs to moms to book-worms to shoppers. Social networks, I think, more than anything give people a place to belong and to hang out. Because of the drastic growth, popularity and craze these days, I created a list for people who have their odd MySpace or Bebo profiles but would like to seek further and discover new ones. 

Note: I haven't included social bookmarking sites and sites with a 'tinge' of social networking (think YouTube or Flickr). Also, I've divided the list into two categories, General and Niche, and covered only publically open services (e.g. no invitation-only betas).

These social networking applications are mostly intended for the general audience, although some have been engrossed and in a way 'taken over' by specific demographics.

MySpace – Probably known as the biggest social network out there, MySpace has taken the U.S. by a storm. Currently with over 80 million users, MySpace was bought by Newscorp for $580 million, and continues to grow and be a general trend-setter in social networks.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults

Bebo – While MySpace is targetted at the U.S. audience, Bebo is a similar service gearing more towards other English-speaking countries such as the U.K, Australia and New Zealand. Bebo was originally founded to help keep in touch with friends, although soon outgrew that aim and currently has more than 40 million users.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults

Tagworld – Founded in the fall of 2005, TagWorld is a direct competitor to MySpace which features better implementation of Web 2.0 features such as tagging and AJAX. TagWorld also features a Music Discovery Engine and an IM client with Video Chat.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults

Orkut – Google's social networking attempt made as '20% project' by a Google employee in early 2004, Orkut started off strong in the U.S. although has grown widely into the Brazilian market with more than 65% of Brazilian users.
Best for: Young Adults (Brazilians)

AIM Pages – Probably the most recently launched 'major' social network, AIM Pages is AOL's shot at breaking MySpace's dominating market share by combining their dominating IM market share of AIM. Although it was expected to be 'the-killer,' it's yet to show any promise.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults 

Hi5 – Estimated to have around 40 million users, Hi5 is a social network which has been gaining user-ship. One of its unique features is to purchase songs via iTunes to add to your profile and upload photos upto 1GB on a free account. Celebrities such as Kelly Clarkson, Jessica Simpson and Tyra Banks are also known to have Hi5 profiles.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults

Panjea – Founded earlier this year, Panjea aims to combine social networking with an economy; money. It enables several ways for artists to get paid, and has its own unique points system.
Best for: Teens, Young Adults, Artists

Cyworld [US] – First started in Korea and turned a national phenomenon with daily revenues averaging upto $300,000, Cyworld is slowly being bought into the U.S. It shares a unique concept of a 'minihompy' which every user has, and that is roughly their profile, and has its own currency of 'acorns.' Users can connect with each other and decorate their 'minihompy.'
Best for: Teens, Young Adults, Koreans

Tagged – A social network mainly for teens, unlike other networks Tagged has a unique concept of being 'tagged,' building 'tag teams' and earning points to be the 'Ultimate Tagged Team'. Tagged has been slowly growing on the teen population mostly in the U.S. although still remains secondary to MySpace.
Best for: Teens

Popist – Sharing a strikingly similar interface to MySpace and competing in the same space, Popist is known to have more open features such as the ability to integrate with other social networks.
Best for: Teens

Friendster – One of the first social networks first launched as a 'social experiment' and recently awarded the patent for social networking, Friendster had a big start peaking a large number of users at first, although it has slowly lost market share and now owns less than 1% of the market.
Best for: Young Adults

Tribe – Recently acquired by NBC, Tribe is a social network focused more on the aspect of enhancing users' own social networks rather than meeting new people or dating. It also features the unique aspect of joining and creating 'tribes,' and is highly localized with its communities.
Best for: Young Adults

Facebook –  A Valley-based startup, Facebook has slowly had a large impact on the College/University market around mostly English-speaking countries and remains the second most popular social network after MySpace in the U.S. Although not available in many places in the world just yet, it's growth rate has been substantial.
Best for: College/University students

ConnectU – A social network tightly focused on the College/University students, ConnectU is a social network very similar to Facebook. Although ConnectU is limited to only a number of Universities and Colleges around the world.
Best for: College/University students

Yahoo! 360 – Launched in early 2005, Yahoo! 360 is Yahoo!'s social networking attempt, also bringing together other blogging and photosharing. One of the noticeable things about Yahoo! 360 is that it only allows people 18 and above to join, hence disabling it to a large crowd of audience.
Best for: Adults, Middle-aged

PeopleAggregator – Marc Canter's move towards 'open' social networks, PeopleAggregator is built upon open standards and functionality. One of the things that makes it unique is that it's a demo of the software it is built upon which will be later available for license to companies.
Best for: Adults, Middle-aged

These applications share a specific goal for a certain kind of audience, whether it's shoppers or moms. 

MommyBuzz – Started only a couple of months ago, MommyBuzz is based around the idea of mom's meeting up and connecting, sharing and exchanging ideas with other moms. A great niche for this kind of an audience.
Best for: Moms!

MuslimSpace – Created by a former computer science student at the American University of Sharjah, MuslimSpace lives true to its name — MySpace for Muslims. Currently estimated to have about 15,000 members, it aims to be cleaner and safer than MySpace and undoubtedly a place for muslims.
Best for: Muslims

Stardoll – How would you like dressing up celebrities as paperdolls? Originally called Paperdoll Heaven, Stardoll enables just that. With a strong social networking backend and with almost a million members, Stardoll is impacting the kid-teen world almost like Neopets did a few years ago.
Best for: Kids/Teens

Imbee – The teens have their places all right, but what about the kids? Imbee aims to be just that, a safe and secure social network for kids. So now when your big brother is showing off his MySpace profile and teasing you for not being able to join, Imbee away!
Best for: Kids

Dogster – A place where dogs [and their owners] can meet. talk and share with with other dogs [and their owners], Dogster is a place where every dog has its own web page. As their tagline goes, 'Share dog photos, tell dog stories, make dog friends!'
Best for: Dogs; their owners

Catster – A sister site to Dogster and run by the same people, Catster is Dogster for cats. 'Share cat photos, tell cat stories, make cat friends!' Need I say more?
Best for: Cats; their owners

Fuzzster – In a way a combination of (but not related to) Dogster and Catster, Fuzzster is exactly that — a place for your cats, dogs and fuzzy pets. Founded in early 2004, it's grown into quite a community of pet-lovers.
Best for: Fuzzy pets; their owners

BookCrossing – In the real world, bookcrossing is 'the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.'  BookCrossing aims to turn this concept virtual, and exactly that.
Best for: Book lovers

Boompa – This one's for every car lover out there (and there are many!), Boompa aims to be 'your garage, online.' Car lovers can show of their 'rides,' find guides are parts to improve them, meet other car lovers alike, watch videos and photos, and a lot more.
Best for: Car lovers

Spout – It's database including more than 250,000 film titles, Spout is a social networking application for film-lovers. With reviews, recommendations,meeting film-lovers like you, the works — Spout is a good place to be at before you rent out your Saturday night flick.
Best for: Film lovers

MOG – A Valley-based startup, MOG aims to connect music-listeners which share similar interests. An interesting way to meet new people, you can also discover news types of music you never knew of before.
Best for: Music lovers

Gusto – There are sites for car, film, music, book, pet lovers, but what about the travellers? Gusto is exactly that, a place for travellers to connect with each other based on their lifestyles (set in preferences). You can also find a ton of travel information, recommendations, and reviews.

Yub.com – Combining social networking with shopping, Yub.com aims to enable smart shopping with the help of networking. It shares a concept of 'cash back' where if another member helps you or vice verca, both members are able to get CashBack. An interesting way to shop.
Best for: [Online] Shoppers

Yelp – From the founders of PayPal, Yelp is a social networking site much like Yub, designed to help shoppers make decisions by enabling user reviews. However, unlike Yub, Yelp is more focused on businesses and services rather than consumer-oriented products. It is currently only available in the U.S.
Best for: 
Anyone in the U.S. (more so in the larger cities)

LinkedIn – Questionably the most-popular choice in its niche, LinkedIn aims to connect colleagues and business-contacts and also help you find new ones. With approximately 5 million users, LinkedIn remains a popular choice for its targetted audience.
Best for: Employed individuals; business-folks

biddingBuddies – Often in trading sites like eBay, you meet and have to deal with a lot of people. biddingBuddies encourages this by being the 'only social network exclusively for eBay members.' So now when you have bidding wars with people, why not try and befriend them?
Best for: eBay members — buyers/sellers

Faqqly – There are so many things you want to know about your friends, so why not ask them through Faqqly? Faqqly creates an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page for every member and enables friends to ask each other whatever question they have in mind.
Best for: Curious people — teens, young adults

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