Without getting into too much detail, I've been arduously studying social networking for "research" for "projects" I "may or may not be working on" at "work". It has been quite interesting, to say the least, and I've learned quite a bit about behavioral patterns of people of varying general demographics. Because I follow technology so ardently, I have, of course, heard of the king of social networks, MySpace. I've also heard of several others such as TagWorld, Bebo, Orkut and the recently launched AIMPages.
Up to this point, I have resisted getting involved with any of these networks for two reasons. First, I don't have a whole lot of time to devote to contributing relevant content. Second, I've been literally disgusted at the abominations called MySpace pages I've seen from friend and co-workers. As a designer, I die a little bit each time I see a MySpace profile.
Unfortunately for me I have come to the point that I need to actually participate in one of these communities to further my understanding of their operations. For this purpose, I have decided to join the established leader (MySpace) and the up-and-comer (AIMPages). I can summarize my brief experiences with both thusly:
MySpace's strength is in numbers. Chances are anyone who might join the network already knows several, if not many, existing members. I counted at least a dozen on my first perusal through the alumni from my graduating class. MySpaces' weakness is, of course, it's horrid collection of pages. I can't write further of it for fear of getting sick.
AIMPages has impressed me despite it not playing well with Firefox on my Mac. Most of the pre-designed page templates have a clean layout. They're also promoting an open architecture by using web services widgets based on existing services such as Flickr. Widgets are easy to implement into a page; simply drag and drop them from the gallery onto the page. Ultimately, I think AIMPages will gain some ground on MySpace based on it's ease of use and cleanliness. Having a tie in to the most popular IM client and established advertising infrastructure doesn't hurth either.
I will post further on my experiences with the two services.