Social Tools: From web applications that enable you to see hundreds of your friends at once, to a way to communicate simultaneously with all your contacts, there are dozens of ways you can scream into cyberspace: “Here I am.” These are 10 of the best Apps for Social Networking Websites.
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1. Entourage and Friends At A Glance
So many friends, so little time. Now Entourage on Facebook and Friends at a Glance on MySpace let you see thumbnail images of hundreds of your friends at once. Sure, there are more creative ways to view folks you know as like Facebook’s Friend Wheel, which maps out how your friends know one another Ã¢â‚¬â€ but if you just want a better, faster way to scan your legions of contacts, these two apps do the job right.
2. My Flickr and Happy Flickr
Every social network lets you upload lots of pictures, but because those images get buried in the back pages of your profile, they hardly ever get viewed. My Flickr for Facebook and Happy Flickr for MySpace display several pictures at once, right on your main profile page. You can choose how big you want each photo to be and how you want them arranged. Since the images are hosted on the Flickr website, you’ll need to create a free account and upload your photos there first. (We promise it’s painless.) Then you can choose which snaps to feature and how often they get refreshed.
Want your friends to marvel at your incomparably fabulous taste in music? iLike (which you can find here on Facebook and here on MySpace) not only lets you add snippets of your favorite songs to your profile, but also alerts you to upcoming concerts, new releases and other events from artists you list. To compare your musical savvy with that of others, you can take the iLike “music challenge” and see how you rank. You can even take the quiz based on your preferred genre Ã¢â‚¬â€ ranging from hip-hop to country. iLike is the surprisingly rare add-on application that combines several useful features in one elegant package. We wish more apps would follow iLike’s tune.
Discover your inner Van Gogh with this deceptively simplistic-looking doodling application (available here on Facebook and here on MySpace). You start with a blank canvas, a palette of colors and a brush. Once you’ve created your oeuvre, you can save it to your profile, then hit the replay button to watch it get automatically redrawn on the page. You’ll be amazed at the elaborate and detailed drawings people have created with such rudimentary tools. But if you want to use Graffiti just to send colorful smiley faces to pals, that’s fine too.
5. Text Twirl
Scrabulous may be the best-known word game on Facebook, but it’s not the only one. If you’re in the mood for a different kind of mind bender, try Text Twirl (available here on Facebook and here on MySpace). This is how it works: you get six letters, and you use them to construct as many different words as possible within two minutes. You earn points for each correct word and can advance to more difficult levels. When your time’s up, Text Twirl shows you which letter combinations you missed. We kick ourselves every time we see how many words we failed to guess Ã¢â‚¬â€ and that’s what keeps us hooked.
6. Bubble Town
Even if you’ve never played a video game before, you’ll have no trouble figuring out Bubble Town. Just hold down your mouse button, then “shoot” bubbles at other bubbles onscreen by releasing the button. The goal is to pop all the bubbles at the top of your screen before they reach the bottom. Unbelievably simple, yes, but totally addictive. Another good game to challenge friends with is Jetman (find it here on MySpace and here on Facebook). You guide an underwater diver through dangerous terrain using only the space bar on your keyboard. It’s a lot trickier than it sounds.
7. BuyBooBuy and ProductPulse
The red shirt or the blue one? If you can’t shop without a second opinion, check out BuyBooBuy on Facebook or ProductPulse on MySpace. Post a photo of the item you like, and other users will give it a thumbs-up or -down. Since both of these applications launched in the past few months, neither has many subscribers yet, but we’re pretty sure they’ll catch on.
Lots of people use maps on their Facebook profiles to show you where in the world they’ve been. Like an overstuffed bookshelf, they’re basically just another way to show off. More useful is a compact app called Dopplr: Where Next?. Instead of flaunting where you have already traveled, Dopplr helps you meet up with friends who may be going to (or already live in) one of your upcoming destinations. For now, this widget is available only on Facebook, and you need to sign up on the Dopplr website to make the app work. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a lot smarter than many of the other travel apps we’ve seen. So, where will you be going next?
Update your status when you’re away from your computer with Twitter, a text messageÃ¢â‚¬â€œbased moblogging service. To get started, sign up for an account on the Twitter site. If you use Facebook, you can add the app to your profile page, and your text updates will automatically post there. On MySpace, it’s easiest to copy the Twitter “badge” (a bunch of HTML code) directly from the Twitter site into your profile. Of course, both Facebook and MySpace already let you make mobile updates to your status without using Twitter (it’s much simpler to do this on Facebook than on MySpace), but Twitter makes it easier to communicate with all your contacts at once Ã¢â‚¬â€ including people who aren’t on your social network but can receive text messages on their phone.
10. Universal Profile Information
Today social networks are separate, self-contained communities, but soon you won’t be limited by your network. That’s because Google, Facebook and MySpace are all working to let you port your profile information and contacts from one site to another. That means you’ll no longer have to re-create your profile every time you sign up for a community-oriented site like eBay or Digg. Instead, your social network will Ã¢â‚¬â€ with your permission Ã¢â‚¬â€ share information you have already provided. MySpace has announced plans to let members share their profiles on eBay, Photobucket, Twitter and Yahoo! And Facebook will soon allow users of Digg (among other sites) to find out which of their Facebook friends have accounts there. It’s too soon to tell exactly how this will take shape, but the changes promise to let users move more freely across the Web 2.0 world. Stay tuned.