Social-networking sites: the complete guide

Facebook, MySpace et al, find the right site for you

Taste-based networks

LibraryThing

Steve Jobs recently claimed that nobody reads any more, but a growing number of sites focus on something almost everyone can relate to: what's on your bedside table.

LibraryThing lets you catalogue the contents of your library, share your reading preferences with other users, and discover books and authors you might otherwise have ignored. Are you a fan of the Spanish writer Ramon del Valle-Inclan? A surprising number of LibraryThing subscribers share your eclectic taste and are ready for a discussion. At the moment, LibraryThing has about 330,000 subscribers.

You start by adding books to your online catalogue one at a time, either by typing in the book's ISBN (its identifying number) or by copying its information from another member's catalogue. Alternatively, you can import multiple books into your catalogue by searching for ISBNs on publisher, bookseller or book-review web pages. Once you've established your library, LibraryThing can suggest other books for you to read, based on the catalogues of members who have similar tastes. Members with free accounts can catalogue up to 200 of their favourite books; unlimited accounts require a $US10 annual donation, while a lifetime membership costs $25.

Last.fm

Tired of hearing the same old music? Wish you could find more songs in the same vein and enjoy those tunes for free? Last.fm's downloadable media player plug-in listens to what you play in your PC's audio player or on your iPod, compares that with the listening habits of Last.fm users with similar tastes, then suggests music it thinks you'll like.

As you click the 'Love' and 'Ban' buttons in response to Last.fm's suggestions, the site learns even more and provides new and different tracks in the same style.

As in the real world, friends on Last.fm are the people who turn you on to great music selections that you'd not have known about otherwise; but if you don't end up making many friends at the site, that's okay. You can still browse through the profiles of users who have similar tastes to yours for music that might be to your liking.

iMeem

Facebook's photo-sharing feature is great, and you can list your favourite TV shows, films and musicians on your profile page there, but that's it. iMeem takes the sharing of movie and music preferences a step further, combining Facebook-style socialising with MySpace-style embedded players, playlists and profile themes.

When you join, you enter as little or as much information about yourself as you like into your iMeem profile, including your location, your schools and employers, your music, movie and TV favourites and other interests. Then you can assemble a list of friends, either by adding specific users or by having iMeem search your webmail accounts for existing iMeemers. You can search for songs and videos that you like and add them to your playlist, enjoy others' playlists and join or create groups dedicated to particular interests, artists or genres.

Most of the audio and video available on iMeem consists of short clips (with links to iTunes or Amazon pages where you can purchase a downloadable version), but you can also upload entire songs for your own playback. Musicians and directors can upgrade their accounts to free professional versions, which showcase their work and include an iMeem subdomain (such as lilyallen.imeem.com).

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Scott Spanbauer

PC Advisor (UK)

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