Social networks nobody seems to use anymore
There are plenty of up-and-coming social networks that, no doubt, want to be as successful as Facebook or Twitter. But, so far, very few social networks even come close to the number of users that these two leviathans have. Google+ boasts 250 million registered users, but how many of them actually use the service (and how many are just Gmail users signing into their email accounts)? Smaller social networks such as Path have hit 2 million users—barely a drop in the bucket.
Several social networks—Pinterest, Nextdoor, and Path—received a lot of hype when they first debuted, only to be quickly discarded and forgotten by the Internet. Here are five social networks that (basically) nobody uses, and why they just can't keep up with Facebook or Twitter.
Pinterest is an online pinboard service that lets you share pictures you find around the Web. Though Pinterest officially launched in March 2010, it's still an invitation-only service, which means you have to be invited by either Pinterest (by requesting an invitation) or by a current user.
You can create themed pinboards where you can "pin" virtually any picture you find on the Web. Others can then "re-pin" these images, along with their links, to their own curated boards.
Pinterest started gaining traction in January 2012, but the hype seemed to die down quickly. In March 2012, Facebook-connected users declined from 12.2 million to 8.3 million. Pinning can be a fun hobby, but Pinterest don't seem like it's poised to take over the social networking scene.
Unlike other social networks, Pinterest is very goal-oriented. In other words, Pinterest isn't really for the casual users, since pinboards typically have a purpose. The "social" aspect of Pinterest is limited to appreciating other people's curating efforts by re-pinning their pins. This is why Pinterest is most often used by designers, wedding planners, and people with visual projects.
Even casual users end up with project boards, such as "Shoes I'd like to own," or "Places I want to visit." Pinterest, ultimately, is for planning, not networking.
Quick—what's your neighbor's first name? What about their kids' and pets' first names? Do you even know if your neighbor has kids or pets?
If you're an American, there's a good chance you don't—and you're not alone: According to a recent Pew study, 57 percent of Americans only know some (or none) of their neighbors' names. If you're craving neighborly social interaction, you'll be happy to know there's a social network for that. It's called Nextdoor, and it's a location-based social network that aims to connect neighborhoods and strengthen community ties.
Nextdoor, which officially launched in October 2011, currently contains more than 3600 neighborhoods, and in theory, it's a great idea. But thanks to the Internet, we've moved beyond being limited to interacting with people who are near us. We can now form online communities—sort of like neighborhoods, if you will—based on shared interests, opinions, and thoughts. In a way, this allows us to have deeper, less superficial relationships with people, whether they live next door to us or on the other side of the world.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't get to know your neighbors, but maybe bringing them a plate of cookies is a better approach.
Path's interface looks a lot like Facebook's recent Timeline redesign: Updates, whether they're status updates, photos, or changes made to your settings, show up in an ongoing timeline. Unlike Facebook's mobile app, Path has a charming, clean design.
The kicker, aside from the fact that it's only available on mobile platforms, is that Path limits you to a small circle of friends and family. Instead of having unlimited followers or thousands of friends, Path forces you to choose just 150 connections. Ideally, this means your connections will be more meaningful and you're more likely to share intimate details about your life with them.
Path officially launched in November 2010, and currently has about 2 million subscribers. That sounds like a lot, but it is tiny compared to Facebook and Twitter.
The main reason Path will never be a serious contender in the social networking sphere is that it's a mobile-only application. Though people are increasingly turning to mobile devices for social networking, regular ol' PCs aren't going anywhere. Being able to update a social network on your mobile device is great, but the second you want to kill time at work (while still looking like you're working) by browsing a social network in another window, Path's charm flies out the window.
The other reason Path isn't a Facebook competitor is because, well, it limits you to 150 connections. Generally speaking, social networks that limit social interactions probably aren't going to go very far.
Are you suffering from social network fatigue? Is it just too difficult to keep up with the goings-on of your 5000 Facebook friends (most of whom aren't your real friends, anyway)?
If you think Path is limiting, you should check out Pair, the ultimate intimate connection. Pair is a social network for just two people: you, and your significant other.
Yes, you read that right. Pair is an app that creates a "private social network" for couples. Technically, you can use Pair with someone who's not your significant other, but Pair only lets you connect with one person at a time. So if you "Pair" with your BFF, your boyfriend or girlfriend will have to sit by the wayside and wait for you to un-pair. Once you've paired with someone, you can send texts, drawings, videos, photos, and even sketch together and play games. All of your interactions are recorded on a virtual timeline that only the two of you are privy to.
Pair is fairly new, as it just launched in March 2012, and it's available on iOS and Android. As of May 2012, the app had been downloaded from iTunes 220,000 times, which means that at least 110,000 couples are "paired."
Obviously, Pair will never become a social network…anything, let alone a behemoth like Facebook. After all, you can only connect to one person at a time on Pair, and you have to un-pair, or break-up, with that person before connecting to someone else. So Pair's not really a social network at all; instead, it's really just a nifty enhanced texting app for couples.
Google may have started out as a search engine, but now it wants to be everything. Really—it wants to be your email provider, your word processor, your document viewer, your streaming video provider, and, of course, your social network.
Google+ is Google's latest foray into the social networking sphere (its first venture was Orkut in early 2004). When it first launched in June 2011, many people were excited about the innovations it brought to social networking. Such inventive features include Circles, or the ability to group friends (privately) in different groups; and Google Hangouts, or group video chats.
Google+ currently has 250 million registered users, but many of these users are likely one-time sign-ups who happened to have Gmail accounts when Google+ launched. As Matt Rosoff at Business Insider points out, signing into Gmail automatically signs you into Google+, but does that mean you're actually using Google+? Not necessarily.
Google+ has a lot of bells and whistles, and that's the reason it's not really going anywhere. There's just too much going on and nothing is really connected to anything else. Sure, you can video chat in Google Hangouts, then update your status to be visible to certain circles, and then create an event, but none of these things are really related to each other. They all make using Google+ feel disjointed and directionless.
New social networks pop up every day, and each one has a niche or feature that distinguishes it from the current hotshots. But there's a reason Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn are the big players; they found the right niches, at the right times. Perhaps the most common "niche" social networks try to fill is the privacy niche: New social networks see the privacy snafus Facebook has faced and think that creating an ultra-private network is the answer. However, they forget the key purpose of social networking, which is to socialize, not to keep everything private.
Certainly a social network to rival Facebook or Twitter will come along one day, but it's not here yet.