The New York Times recently profiled the growing trend towards smaller, niche social networks. Most user profiles on major networks like Facebook and Twitter include friends, family, sort-of-friends, past acquaintances, and others with whom you may not want to share all of your information. Start-ups have viewed this as an opportunity to create new social networks with various restrictions to allow for more intimate socializing. While these new social networks don’t necessarily compete directly with Facebook or each other, they do compete with the number of social networks a person can comfortably maintain.
Path allows users to keep a journal, or 'path', of their life on the go. Similar to Facebook, it allows users to post pictures and videos, check in at locations, and share other life events. Unlike Facebook, users are only permitted to have a maximum of 150 friends. Path implemented this cap to create an environment where users can feel safe sharing personal information with family and close friends only, like at the dinner table at home. The network currently has over 1 million active users.
Founded just a few months ago, FamilyLeaf is a social network only for relatives. The creators realized this need when managing Facebook accounts and having to sort shared content for friends and relatives separately. The network has a streamlined interface so parents and grandparents who are not technologically savvy can participate with ease. Upon launch, the high demand exceeded the network’s capacity and there is now a waiting list to join.
Pair is a social network which allows users to share with only one other person. While originally designed for romantic relationships, the founders are finding many use the app to communicate better with a best friend or parent/child. As opposed to text messaging, you won’t accidentally send a message to the wrong person or be restricted to words and pictures. Pair includes texting and photo/video capabilities, but also allows users to create a drawing together, share a to-do list, or press a button to share a current location. The mobile app was released for iOS in March and gained 100,000 users in only 7 days. Earlier this month, the app launched for Android devices.
Change is the status quo in social media. What is a start-up one day becomes a mega platform the next. Regardless, niche platforms can have important roles in their users lives. Best not to overlook them.