Facebook might be the monster social network, but there's a pack of smaller digital destinations for those seeking more personal experiences.
With more than 955 million users, Facebook offers connections with almost anyone but feels less private. That's given rise to apps and sites that capture interest in sharing on a smaller scale.
For example, social app Path, formed in 2010, now boasts more than 3 million users and a forum limited to 150 of one's friends. "Facebook built the city, the infrastructure," says Nate Johnson, vice president of marketing at Path. "Twitter has built this massive broadcasting platform."
Path is designed to be a place where users can feel most comfortable, Johnson says. "We're really trying to build the home."
Path makes money by selling such things as photo filters. Johnson says it has no advertising and does not sell user information.
The list of other sites used for greater privacy or niche interests is ever expanding.
Photo-sharing site Pinterest and close-knit networks such as FamilyLeaf, Everyme and Care2 are bringing in users attracted to social sites with a more personal promise.
•Care2. This website, formed in 1998, connects activists based on causes they are passionate about. When Facebook exploded onto the scene, Care2 saw a drop in traffic, says founder and CEO Randy Paynter. Now, those numbers are rising as Facebook ages and users look to join sites that satisfy more nuanced interests, Paynter says.
•Touch. The mobile-only app allows close groups of friends to keep tabs on each other through status updates, pictures, and group-messaging. Instead of timeline-scrolling, Derek Ting and Jon Lerner, co-founders and CEOs of Enflick — the company behind Touch — wanted to create a mobile-only app focused on "real-time interaction," Ting said. The app also allows users to see who has viewed their uploaded photos.
Their inspiration for the app, founded in December, is a digital version of "a face-to-face conversation in the same room with your closest friends," Ting said.
•FamilyLeaf. The social site is designed for family members to get together. Co-founders Ajay Mehta and Wesley Zhao found that once their parents joined Facebook, things got "weird." Forced to either navigate complex privacy settings or to block their relatives altogether, they aimed to create a space where families could connect online but away from the social-media frontlines.
The site launched in early March and was born out of start-up incubator Y Combinator, a program that gives guidance and financial backing. For now, you can join FamilyLeaf by invitation only. But there is a "small, but active group of families on the site," Mehta said.
The goal is to connect immediate relatives, as well as those less closely related and more geographically distant. Mehta says they want the site to grow "virally through an organic family-tree model." He says the site closely guards user information and makes money only through services it offers, such as printing of photo albums or helping families buy gifts for each other.
•Everyme. Launched in April, the site shies away from the add-everyone-you've-ever-met philosophy of Facebook and immediately prompts users to create a "best friend" circle upon registering for the service. The aim is to simulate your most personal relationships within the confines of the Internet.