Social-networking sites: the complete guide

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

Facebook's mass appeal

Despite mutterings of a slowdown, Facebook continues to account for a significant amount of a significant number of perfectly intelligent people's time. Only the US has more Facebook users than Britain.

A big reason for Facebook's allure is not just the number of people who use it, but the thousands of applications on the site. These mini applets use the power of social networking for everything imaginable, acting as extensions to the basic Facebook post-a-profile/read-a-profile functionality. Some are serious, some are frivolous, while others are downright annoying and can lead to you accidentally spamming everyone in your friends list.

Third-party developers are queuing up to write free applications for the site — a development platform in its own right. With more than 7000 Facebook applications to choose from, we've chosen a few of our favourites to share with you.

Scrabulous

Scrabble owner Hasbro is miffed that it didn't come up with the idea for Scrabulous: a virtual Scrabble game that you challenge friends to play. Unlike the real game, you don't have to sit around for 15 minutes while your opponent comes up with a word worth 12 points. Simply make your move when you log in.

Lil Green Patch

This site purports to save the rainforest acre by acre — and you get to nurture your own little green patch along the way.

By maintaining your garden and lending a hand with your friends' gardens, you earn virtual money to spend and plants to send to others. The nurturing process increases your acreage, little by little.

Photos

Why post to Flickr or a site that's more interested in getting you to print your digital snaps than to share them, when you can show them to everyone you know (or limit access) at Facebook's own Photo gallery? Beware others tagging you in dodgy snaps, though: check in regularly for pictures you'd rather weren't associated with your good name. Detagging is where it's at.

iRead

As well as being a good way of getting into lit crit, iRead lets you find out what friends and other users of this application think of books you had half a mind to read. There's the option of being more proactive and 'chucking' a book you recommend at friends, but the site's own recommendation engine is less successful.

LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn is gaining currency at long last, so this crossover tool to co-ordinate your business and social networks is a boon. It makes you a bit more efficient and fools you into thinking time spent on Facebook isn't necessarily time wasted. Well, we all need a bit of downtime, after all.

Zoho Online Office Suite

Zoho is one of the better online productivity suites, complete with word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and database. This Facebook application taps into your existing Zoho account, or you can set up a new account from inside the app.

It links to all your Zoho documents and also lets you co-operatively work on the documents with other Facebook users. As with your normal Zoho account, you can choose which documents to keep private.

Spamless Applications Directory

Designed as an easy way to choose which Facebook apps to install, based on the fact that they don't require you to spam your friends (quickly turning them from mates to anything but). Friendships could be saved.

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Scott Spanbauer

PC Advisor (UK)
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