Gary Stock: UnBlinking

Social NOTworking


In late December, 2008, a friend asked for my input on a social networking concept. It's a great idea; someday we may pursue it. While evaluating its place in the universe, I was astonished at how bad most social networking sites appear to be. Wow. What a wasteland! I grabbed a snapshot as I went along.

Rediscovering my research in June, 2009, I revisited the sites to see how much had fallen to rot and attrition in six months. As we might expect, few sites got better; several got much worse; most lie mouldering.

  • I just looked around for a little while -- there is nothing scientific about this survey!
  • I could have found dozens more; this sketchy, random list is not intended to be complete!
  • I'm sure you know another site you LOVE or HATE -- but you don't need to tell me about it!

Feel free to poke comments into Steve Yost's cool QuickTopic

Remember, as always: if you blink, don't blog.

UnBlinking scans the wealth of information on the internet, gathering background on people and events. Using public search engines, UnBlinking collates what may be known (and what may have been forgotten). [Usability note: All links open into the same target window.]


Don't Date Me Because I'm Beautiful  

This survey is all about first impressions. In some cases, I know much more. For example, one dating site -- OKCupid -- is not visually impressive, and has a rather average-looking membership. But, it's one of the best sites internally, technically. They upgrade features regularly, pay attention to user comments, and keep the profiles and forum pages healthy. People network there a lot.

OTOH, some very flashy looking sites are essentially zombies -- dead from the neck up. Half the profiles are bogus, features have been broken for weeks or months... the owner may not still be alive! So, do NOT be surprised to be surprised by what's behind the home page.

Finally, in the "Judging A Book By Its Cover" category, expect the unexpected. After months of low-yield searches at e-Harmony, Match, Chemistry (and others that shall remain nameless ;-), I found myself just goofing around on a "non-dating" site. I took the same approach in my profile and messages -- but met women who were much more interesting, and more open to relationships. Go figure.

Aye, Aiiie! I, Eye of the Beholder

Here's the key for my review, in the table below. Note that a few true "Dating" sites slipped in, jumbled up in online lists of social networking sites. If something changed noticeably, you'll see both my 20081226 and 20090610 notes. I've highlighted a few table cells with great or revealing pointers.

Column 1: Clickable link. You understand that, right?

Column 2: First Impression. Literally; I did a very brief review. This is a one-word, snap judgment based on design and profiles from the home page (if any). These words are relative within the survey: FaceParty is more douchebaggy than Face-Pic, which is more Cryptic than Faces, which is cluttered. MOST of these sites are douchebaggy, cryptic, and cluttered; some are more blatantly so than others.

Column 3: Active. The reported number of members logged in at the moment I visited -- very few sites admit this. Large sites, like MySpace or MyYearbook, may not want to reveal the relative flux from hour to hour (it bleeds too much marketing data). Small sites freak out about admitting you're there all alone.

Column 4: Members. The reported number of members, total. Please note two huge caveats. First, some sites are really a network of sites (FriendFinder is one example). Thus, everyone who joins any of their sites -- Adult, German, Gay, Senior, Christian, Filipino -- all appear in that "Member Count," but you'll never see 99% of their profiles. (Nor would you want to! :-) Second, many sites keep zombie profiles "alive" indefinitely. Profiles frequently have been inactive for months or years -- or never had any content.

Column 5: Likely Audience. Another First Impression, based in part on the choice of language, and featured profiles.

Column 6: About Us. A direct, characteristic or revealing quote from the site's own "About Us" or home page.

Column 7: Notes. Whatever else you need to know, or I can't resist saying. Yeah, I'm a little oldskool, but if you enjoy sites packed with disturbing images, and people, and language, and music , why are you reading this at all?!?

Clickable link First Impression Active Members Likely Audience In their own words; what they say "About Us." Notes; they're rarely about what they say.
bebo Sterile     Bored "Bebo is a social media network where friends share their lives and explore great entertainment."  
blnk Cutesy     Shoppers [A klunky script-burdened menu refuses to say anything "About" this site.] Skin wrapped over Kaboodle
BookOfMatches Disruptive     Barflies "By signing up and not sending a single email, you have a 100% greater chance of meeting people than if you never created a profile (because people can and will still contact you)." Disturbingly intrusive music
buzznet Confused   "10M" Music "More authentic, content rich and frequently updated than a website, and more interactive than a blog, Buzznet's integrated media and community platform allows its users to network like never before with leading bands, trendsetters and their peers through self-created content, videos, photos and journals."  
CyberSoulmate Zombie   Zero Nada "The ideal web address for a top rung social networking, matchmaking, or dating site." 20081226: Domain for sale: $5,500.
20090610: Domain for sale: $3,500.
Sucks to be them.
DancePassions [crickets] 3   Dancing "Whether you are looking for a dance partner, or just to chat with someone who might appreciate your interest in dancing, Dance Passions is the site for you. " "Joining this site makes you a member of Passions Network, a 100% free online dating social network with over 110+ individual community sites."
Hmmm... exactly 106 users online -- one per passion.
DateHookup Human 7,163   Dating "We're really a lot more fun than those stuffy old paid dating sites too!" They actually admit,
Single women online now (3,291)
Single men online now (3,872)
DirtyStay Out Bogus     Events "DirtyStayOut is an interactive event planning and marketing organization. We have built a large network of social professionals and have connected them with hot venues and events." Click "view all girls"; "chick04," "kellyLOVE01", and "mykrissylove" are the same girl. She should have a picture of your credit card disappearing instead.
eons Naptime     Boomers " is the online community for "BOOMers," those of us born between 1946 and 1964 and beyond, who want to learn and do more to make the most of every stage of life." Founded by Jeff Taylor, who created Bios suggest they *desperately* want to be acquired!
Fabulously40 Girly     Women " is a rapidly growing website for women who value their individuality, recognize their strengths and cherish their relationships with others." Why do I think I'm reading Good Housekeeping magazine?
FaceParty Douchebaggy     Freakshows "Join us and eat brain." "Random Spazmos." "Dude I hope you wash your mouth out and see a doctor. That's pretty nasty. I think you have aids." Run by Anarchy Towers. Need I say more?
Face-Pic Cryptic   "2M" Bored kids " is one the original social networking websites. We have been online since February 2000 and since then we have attracted over 2 million members with more who join every day."  
Faces Cluttered     Slackers "Faces is about having fun, a mad bunch of creative young people thought it would be a really cool idea to build this site." Previously, site was "Profile Heaven"
Flip Yawn     Scrapbooks 20081226: "On Flip, you can make and share your own online scrapbooks. We call them flipbooks."
20090610: now redirects to TeenVogue. Scrapbooking online: Fail.
Intended to be mounted and viewed at other sites; instead, scrapheap of history..
Flixter Diverse     Movies "Flixster is a community for movie fans of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are a die-hard horror fan or lover of romantic comedies (or both)," Seems there might be an active community here...
FriendFusion Dull   Zero in Michigan Photos "[FriendFusion] is a simple and free way to show pictures and videos of family and friends and a fun way to stay in touch. " Having noted many obviously bogus female profiles at other sites, I can confirm that some of the same bogus female members have accounts here!
FriendSensation Scary     Personals 20081226: " was created by me as a way for regular, real people to meet and chat as friends before becoming lovers."
20081226: When a site misspells its own name (Adavnced [sic] Integrated Theater and Sound) for a URL containing "index/php," you know there's trouble.
20090610: When that URL is 404 rather than 301, you know it's worse. When only 2 of 16 "MEMBERS" have photos... 'nuff said.
FriendsReunited Commercial   "19M" Reunions "Friends Reunited helps you find friends from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong or Malaysia."  
Friendster Vanilla   "90M" Links "With more than 90 million members worldwide, Friendster is a leading global online social network. " Big. But, you knew that.
Fropper Bollywood     India "Fropper is ALL about meeting people, making new friends & having fun with music, photos, videos & blogs!" Includes a special "indian Matrimonial" section. That sez it all.
FunAdvice Promising   "128K"
Baby mamis "Ask questions, give advice and make new friends." OMFG. Top questions: "Is 34b big for a 14 yr old or small?"… "Do you know any other websites??"… and "Pregnacey test" [sic]
GoodReads Upscale     Readers "Goodreads' mission is to improve the process of reading and learning throughout the world. " One of the only sites intending to raise the level of discourse!
hi5 Obscure   "80M" Huh? "Launched in 2003, hi5 is now one of the world's largest social networks and a top 20 website globally - with 80+ million registered members in over 200 nations."  
HotOrNot Flashy     Narcissists "HOT or NOT is a vibrant Social Entertainment Network™ that has achieved global success with millions of members and subscribers through our popular photo sharing, rating and meet/dating features." Trading on self-esteem, and the most potentially psychologically damaging of any web site. Ever. Unless you're hot.
HoverSpot Scammy     Masses " is a free social networking website that facilitates online communication through an interactive network of photos, weblogs, personal web pages, and an internal e-mail system." The advertisements talk to you *out loud* -- as if the site weren't irritating enough.
JustSayHi Active     Dating   It's actually "", but they have the sense to redirect!
LikeBetter Dead     Comparisons "It's easy to meet people on! As you're browsing the hotties, keep an eye on the results bar. If someone has filled out a profile and wants to meet people, you'll be able to click to meet them." Barely Hot or Not; networking seems an afterthought
LinkedIn Professional   "30M" Careers "LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries." Serious stuff
LiveJournal Energetic     Bloggers "You can use LiveJournal in many ways: a private journal, a blog, a discussion forum or a social network." Useful business projections
MatchDoctor Matchy     Dating "There is a new level of interaction between our members by sharing your favorite videos, starting a journal, discussing topics in our forums, taking quizzes or creating your own."  
MiGente Sharp 4,560   Latinos "The power of Latinos" Isn't this just Mi Espacio? The name means, "My People." On the street maybe, "My Crew."
Mingle2 Easy     Dating "Finding a date with Mingle2 has never been simpler. Our singles community is massive, and you're only a couple of clicks away from finding a date."  
MyGhetto Bloated     Ludacris " is an interactive online social networking community that allows members to interact with friends and family online. " Music automatically, layer upon layer of broken javascript, competing to run.
MyNetSpot Dark     Nobody " is based on the Circle of Friends technique for networking individuals in virtual communities and demonstrates the small world phenomenon, also known as WEB 2.0." 20081226: If that nonsense (and inaccurate) definition doesn't confuse you, the site will.
20090610: Link disabled, since it redirects momentarily to "" which is sooooo NSFW or anything else.
MyYearbook Clownish     Gangstas "Let's face it, friendster gets boring, and myspace is creepy. myYearbook would be the only community of people worth going to. It would have every high school, every college, every graduate school, every summer program, every employer, everyone." 20081226: A family brainstorm run amok. Good data on scale of social networking sites.
20090610: Amazingly, I've met more great women at MyY than on any dating site, just by goofing around here a few minutes a day.
NeoFriends Garish 260   Sluts "Meet singles today through our free personal ads! Tons of men and women are here looking for someone like you to date!" Not networking; just dating, and possibly the filthiest profiles I've ever seen... on any site. This also may be where the Nigerian scammers get their scripts.
NetLog Snappy   "30M"
Europeans "Your own profile with a guestbook, blog, friends, pictures and videos. Join clans, discover the coolest events and music."  
ning Inviting     Creatives "[We] founded Ning in October 2004 to give everyone the opportunity to create your own social networks for anything. Today Ning powers the largest number of social networks on the Internet." 20081226: Metanetwork; highly customizable and expansible.
20090610: OMG, did these guys stumble into the best typosquat EVER, now that is online...
octopop Flirty     Brazilians "The ultimate website for friends, videos, photos and communities." 20081226: The idiosyncracies of translation are fun: "Are these photos pop or not? Would you like to elect the best one?"
20090610: Heh... that hideous "OctoMom" has weakened this brand.
OkCupid Geekish 11,600   Dating "We firmly believe that most matching sites are just personals services; their "matching" systems are nonexistent or overly subjective." These guys should own the dating market. I include them only because they know how a database works!
orkut Googley     Googlers "orkut makes it easy to find people who share your hobbies and interests, look for romantic connections or establish new business contacts. " Google had to cut into this market somehow.
plaxo Simpsonesque   "40M" Mobile "We securely host address books for more than 40 million people (and growing rapidly). And now, we're bringing those address books to life with "Pulse," a new way to enrich your connection with the people in your life." Trying to be LinkedIn, but with more personal data. Unfortunately, I can't find anyone I know here. In fact, I can only find a half dozen people in my entire state!
SocialGrid Searchable 50K ids   Structured "SocialGrid is a free online dating service and decentralized social networking community that helps people meet using tags." Finally, somebody using a database for what a database is for.
spout Sterile     Moviegoers "Spout is an online movie community helping you find movies you will love. Spout helps guide you to new movies, and worthwhile movie ratings."  
tagged Choppy   "70M" Incoherent "Tagged helps people keep in touch with their friends and make new ones. We provide a fun media experience featuring expressive custom profiles, fluid widget embedding, integrated video, chat, and much more."  
TagWorld Trivial     Thugs No statement of any kind. The site must do something, but it's impossible to see what that is.
twitter Slick     Technophiles "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?" Networking in a very strange and intrusive sense... If you aren't there yet, You Are The Resistance!!
WeHangHere Disneyesque     Bored adults "We're here to help you find, message and meet the people who love hanging in your favourite places." Trying to get you off the web into a place... by getting you to use the web. Presumably the site name is not a subtle yank on Benjamin Franklin.
WhatScene Vague     Lost boys "WhatScene helps you find other people that have similar tastes to you using "Scenes" (Where the name What"Scene" comes from) Scenes are your areas of interest that help define what kind of person you are."  
xanga Frantic     Blogphiles Ummm...? You have to guess what Xanga does, but it has something to do with lots and lots and lots of blogs. (To be fair, I know what it does -- you just won't find out at the site!)
YourCribSite Vacant   "5K" Gullibles "We had over 5,000 members but due to server problems we had to gut everything & restart the site we hope you will re sign up because YCS is going to be huge!" 20081226: The only thing visible is a two-day old posting announcing the upcoming release of "New Model Army - Fuck Texas, Sing for Us"
20090610: Link disabled, since the site is now a search scam promotion: "Your Trusted Source For Financial Freedom"
yuniti Bubbly     Teenyboppers "Our mission was to make a community where you have full control over every aspect of the site and your profile, including how private (or public) you want your profile to be."  

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