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Social networking is (in relative terms) the new killer application of the Internet. This is apparent in the placement of MySpace in Alexa’s top 500 most accessed sites in the United States. In spite of the fact that MySpace could indeed be the ugliest website ever, it still manages to draw more traffic than heavy hitters like eBay, Craig’s List, Wikipedia and Amazon.

Admittedly, that particular statistic may not be as important since last month when Nielsen/NetRatings pronounced total time spent, not number of page views, as the best measure for online engagement. Whichever rating you use, bringing people together is clearly a service people want and they’ll take it any way they can get it.

My new favorite and the recent (since last September when they opened their doors to anyone with an email address) master of the social networking space is Facebook. Not only is the layout clean and easy on the eyes, but it has a highly-extensible platform that makes it relatively easy (and potentially lucrative) to build exciting, new applications for the millions of Facebook users to enjoy.

One of the best things about Facebook is the way that you add external content into your profile, making it the central place you’d point people to in order to see all your stuff at once. Below are some of the other social networking sites I currently have integrated into my Facebook profile.

  • Twitter is a “micro-blogging” site that allows users to post short updates (140 characters or less) to whoever chooses to follow them. Users subscribe to each other’s feeds (or not) and post about what they’re doing right now, where they are or whatever is on their minds. Some users may follow hundreds (or thousands) of other “tweeters,” including friends, bloggers, news feeds, or any application someone can think of that might make good use of the architecture. (my Twitter)
  • Jaiku is a site similar to Twitter that gives a user the additional ability to add RSS feeds his presence, making it yet another way to consolidate external content into one place. Both sites provide widgets that users can put in their blog or online profiles to display their recent activity. (my Jaiku)
  • Last.fm is a social networking site built around music. An easily installed application updates the site with each song played in your iTunes, live, keeping friends and others abreast of your listening habits. You can connect with people based on your musical tastes and test your compatibility with the “Taste-o-meter.” (my Last.fm)
  • del.icio.us is a bookmark networking site. Users post their bookmarks, along with options tags and a comment, making them available for all to see. It is possible to make your entries private (not shared) so it can be used strictly for storing and retrieving your favorite bookmarks. However, with sharing comes the social networking aspect. You can see how many people have linked to the same things as you and you can see what else people are linking to. You can subscribe to your friends’ links and keep up on what they’re interested in. (my del.icio.us).
  • Digg is another bookmark networking site, focused specifically on news articles, videos and podcasts. Users post their favorite media content along with tags and comments and everyone can see what everyone else is digging. Hot topics can generate comment threads with hundreds of responses or more. As is also true for posting to del.icio.us, many blogs and news sites will include “digg this” links, allowing people to easily digg whichever article they’re currently reading. (my Digg)
  • Stylefeeder is yet another bookmark networking site, but built around a person’s own individual style. Users still post bookmarks with tags and a comment, but they include an image with each link and can also specify a gender relevancy (male/female/neutral). (my Stylefeed)
  • Upcoming is a Yahoo! site built around events. You post events (with tags and comments) for everyone to see. Anyone can set themselves as “watching” or “attending” an event, so you can see who else might be going (or who might be convinced). You can keep up with your friends’ events and they can keep up with yours. (my Upcoming)

So in spite of all these wonderful sites out there and all the fascinating options they provide to their users, many of my readers only actually see the content as it is presented in my Facebook profile. As Facebook continues to add features and developers continue to build new applications, more and more folks will be focusing on that platform as the focus of their online presence. Look for Facebook to continue to blow up in the coming months.

Also look for future posts about social networking on this site as it is has been a major focus of mine for as long as I can remember and it’s time I started writing more about it.

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