With hundreds of millions of user accounts, MySpace is the Internet's most recognizable (and reviled) social network. From teenagers to grandmas, seemingly everybody has a page. But Rupert Murdoch's online leviathan may not be the best option for satisfying your Web communication needs. Nimble new startup companies are creating both general-purpose and specialized services — all of them free, just as MySpace is — that could get you a job, find you a date, connect you with friends new and old, and fill your life with beautiful music.
With so many social networks dotting the Web, though, it's hard to know which ones are worth your time and bandwidth. To help clarify things, we examined 17 alternatives to MySpace in five broad categories: general-purpose, special-purpose, taste-based, mobile, and media-sharing social networks. As we discuss our findings, we'll also offer a few tips for maintaining your safety and privacy, finding friends online, and getting the most out of each service.