If social networks were ice cream flavors, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter would be hopelessly vanilla.
But never fear. If your interests are a little less conventional, you can join a social network for mustache lovers, UFO enthusiasts, and, yes, even lost zombies. You'll also find networks for knitters, dreamers, social drinkers, and recovering alcoholics (the last two are completely separate, which is probably for the best).
Here are five of the most eclectic--but thriving--niche social networks on the Web, including one that promises to get you into heaven and another that caters to your more devilish side.
Line for Heaven
Line for Heaven is a social network for the angel in you.
Are you going to heaven? If you're not sure--and if heaven is a place that you want to go when you die--Line for Heaven may be the niche social network for you. This religious social network is supposed to be an entertaining way for people to connect and...get in line for entry into heaven, I guess. (The site's slogan is "Religion can be fun!")
In Line for Heaven, users can perform various tasks--invite friends, confess sins, support causes--to earn Karma points. Karma points are what you need to advance in the virtual line for heaven, so it's in your best interest to rack them up. One of the activities on Line for Heaven is "The Blessing Game," which is like a G-rated version of Hot or Not: You see two people's pictures (along with little self-written blurbs about why they're worthy), and you get to decide whom to bless. That's a little weird, considering that you are choosing a person to bless based on looks.
Every Sunday is Judgment Day on Line for Heaven. The person at the front of the line (the person with the most Karma points for that week) is "inducted into heaven" and becomes an "angel." Other users who have acquired a ton of Karma points are allowed to touch heaven. Oh, and Line for Heaven is accepting of all religions--all people, no matter what religion they are (or aren't) can get into heaven if they work hard enough (at least on this site).
Goths and vampire aficionados can connect on Vampire Freaks.
If heaven's not your game, perhaps you'd like to step into the dark underworld of vampires--and I'm not talking about Edward Cullen. Vampire Freaks is a social network for people who are interested in vampires, Goths, and other Gothic-industrial subcultures.
Users can upload photos and videos, add friends, rate other members' photos, and join groups (or "cults"). The site also has a journal feature (presumably for writing death-centric emo poetry), a message board, a chat room, and classifieds, as well as a band section for various types of music, such as industrial, metal, electronica, hardcore, experimental, alternative, gothic, and punk.
Vampire Freaks is probably most useful for its events board, however. Here, users can post any and all events, whether they're meet-ups or metal-band concerts, and gather with other similarly gloomy people. Vampire Freaks currently boasts more than 1.7 million users.
Fubar creates the party atmosphere of a bar without booze.
Barflies and party girls will enjoy the chaotic nature of Fubar, a social network that bills itself as the world's "first online bar." This social network is kind of a mess--but aren't all dive bars kind of a mess? I'd say it's a mix of MySpace circa 2005 and Hot or Not, with a little gamification mixed in.
Fubar's main page is utter chaos. It's dominated by photos of members--a strip of member photos occupies the top of the page, and more photos fill the middle. The screen also has large 'Make New Connections' and 'Meet People' buttons. Users can interact with other members in a number of ways, by leaving profile comments, rating photos, sending private messages and talking in chats, and bestowing virtual drinks and gifts.
But that's not all. Fubar isn't just a social network--it's a game. As members interact, they earn points, which help them level up in Fubar. Levels bring new features, such as additional photo storage, as well as Fubucks, which is Fubar's primary currency. Fubucks let users buy virtual drinks for other members, while Fucredits (the secondary, premium currency, which costs real dollars) let users buy animated virtual gifts.
As in a real (non-U.S.) bar, Fubar requires members to be at least 18 years old.
You can stay home and knit alone, or you can join in the fun on Ravelry.
Knitters, weavers, crocheters, and yarn-bombers have a place to connect with other yarn enthusiasts on Ravelry, a niche social network for fiber artists. Although crafts these days go hand in hand with the Internet, I still see knitting and crocheting as more of a non-Web sport. But, hey, who am I to deny the yarn-passionate their social space?
All kidding aside, Ravelry is actually a pretty useful tool if you're into fiber crafts. The social network offers each member a profile, or a "notebook," where they can log current and future projects and keep an inventory of their "stash" of yarn, needles, and hooks. I'm not sure why you'd need to inventory your stash online, though; to be honest, this seems like more of a bragging outlet to me, similar to how car enthusiasts detail their engine stats.
Ravelry also has some useful tools, including a pattern browser, a yarn directory, and a marketplace where members can buy and sell materials with other Ravelry members.
REMcloud lets you share your dreams with the world.
One thing I don't see a lot of on Facebook and Twitter are dream-sharers. Whether this is because people feel foolish sharing their dreams with people they actually know or because most people's dreams just aren't all that interesting, I'm not sure. (Probably a little of both.) But for people who think their dreams are interesting, there's a dedicated social network: REMcloud.
REMcloud appears to take some inspiration from Twitter. It features a live newsfeed, a status-update bar that limits your characters (to 400), and followers (not friends). You can also add hashtags to words in your dreams to see similar dreams. Other than that, it's just what it sounds like: a social network for people who want to share their dreams. Don't expect to find an anthology of weird, creepy, inane dreams, however--most of REMcloud's dreams are fairly mundane ("I dreamed that my mother painted every room in the house the same color," for example).
Unlike a lot of social networks, REMcloud starts off as anonymous--you're not required to give your real name, nor are you required to upload a photo of yourself (REMcloud offers a selection of avatars). However, you can connect REMcloud to Facebook and Twitter, as well as search for friends in your Gmail or Yahoo Mail contact lists, so it's as anonymous as you want it to be (or not).