Internationally Popular Social Networks You've Never Heard of Before

See what else the world uses to stay connected other than Facebook or Twitter

Social Networks

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Almost everyone knows that Facebook is the world's largest social network, boasting over 1.39 billion monthly active users as of the end of 2014. And you've probably heard of the rest of them, too – Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, and maybe even a few others.

But across the globe, millions of people are using completely different social networks that you've never even heard of before. Just like every country has its own unique culture and characteristics, so too do their options and preferences in what tools are available to connect and communicate digitally.

We may live in a world mostly dominated by Facebook, but there's much more to the world of social networking than that. Here are 10 lesser-known social networks that are huge favorites in certain parts of the world.

QZone

What We Like

  • Massive user base.

  • Customizable avatar.

  • Music streaming.

  • Integrated messaging.

What We Don't Like

  • In network ads and purchases.

  • Long running advertisements.

In China, it's not Facebook that's the most popular social network – it's QZone. QZone is a Chinese social network that's been around since 2005 and was launched alongside the popular QQ instant messaging service. Users can customize their QZone preferences with layouts and widgets as they interact, post photos, write blog posts and do all sorts other things. As of 2014, the network has 645 million registered users, making it one of the biggest social networks in the world.

VK

What We Like

  • Group messaging.

  • Messages can have multiple attachments.

  • Split into Group and Public communities.

  • News recommendation engine.

What We Don't Like

  • Facebook lookalike.

  • Rare website updates.

VK (formerly VKontakte, meaning "in touch" in Russian) is the largest European social network. VK is the dominant social network in Russia as opposed to Facebook, although it resembles Facebook quite closely. Users can build their profiles, add friends, share photos, send virtual gifts and more. The network has over 100 million active users and is most popular in Russian-speaking countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Facenama

What We Like

  • Large user base.

  • Share posts, photos and videos.

What We Don't Like

  • Facebook lookalike.

  • Significant censorship.

  • Questionable privacy.

As of December 2014, Facenama was still the number one social network in Iran. And just as its name suggests, Facenama is like an Iranian version of Facebook. At this point, it's not quite clear where the network stands, mainly because it appears that the site had been hacked in early January of 2015 with account information from 116,000 users having been leaked.

Weibo

What We Like

  • Massive user base.

  • Share posts, photos and videos.

  • Commenting set up like Facebook.

  • Innovative medal reward system.

What We Don't Like

  • Frequent advertising.

  • 140 character limit.

  • Strict censorship.

Weibo is a Chinese microblogging social network, similar to Twitter. Behind QZone, it's another one of the more popular social networks in China, with over 300 million registered users. Like Twitter, Weibo has a 280-character limit and allows users to talk to one another by typing the "@" symbol before a username. The BBC predicts and explores how Weibo could eventually fade out for good after the new rules are enforced by the Chinese government regarding personal identification.

Netlog / Twoo

What We Like

  • Very large user base.

  • "Discover" feature similar to Tinder.

  • Free to join.

  • Multinational community.

What We Don't Like

  • Large number of fake profiles.

  • Poorly moderated.

  • Many users report privacy concerns.

Formerly known as Facebox and Redbox, Netlog (now part of Twoo) is a social network made for meeting new people. It's a popular choice throughout Europe, as well as in Turkey and Arab countries. Users can build their profiles, upload photos, chat with others and browse other people's profiles to look for new connections. There are currently about 160 million people on Netlog/Twoo, also now including the previously popular Sonico social network that used to be geared toward a Latin American audience.

Taringa!

What We Like

  • Unique social network.

  • Simple user interface.

  • Integrated with Bitcoin.

  • Interesting user ranking system.

What We Don't Like

  • Has experienced data breaches.

  • Fewer features than other social networks.

Taringa! is a social network popular among Spanish speakers, and it's especially favored in Argentina. Users can post content to share with their friends – including articles, photos, videos and more – to inform people about current news and events, and to engage in discussion. It's a little like Twitter and Reddit combined. The network has around 11 million registered users and over 75 million monthly active users.

Renren

What We Like

  • Large student user base.

  • Interesting discussions.

  • Nuomi.com integrated (like Groupon).

What We Don't Like

  • Strict censorship.

  • Facebook clone.

  • Lots of advertising.

There are a lot more popular Chinese social networks than you might think. Renren (formerly Xiaonei Network) is another big one, translating to "Everyone's Website" in English. Similar to how Facebook started out in its early days, Renren is a popular choice among college students, allowing them to create profiles, add friends, blog, participate in polls, update their status and more. It has over 160 million registered users.

Odnoklassniki

What We Like

  • Find old classmates.

  • Millions of users from Russia and surrounding countries.

  • Rate photos of other people.

What We Don't Like

  • Focus primarily on classmates.

  • Rules are poorly enforced.

  • Significant online bullying goes on.

VK may be the top social networking choice in Russia, but Odnoklassniki is another big one that's not all that far off. The social network follows the student trend encourages users to connect with their classmates. It has about 200 million registered users and receives about 45 million unique daily users. Not bad, right? In addition to being quite popular in Russia, it's also popular in Armenia, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Iran. 

Draugiem

What We Like

  • Very popular in Latvia.

  • Large user base.

What We Don't Like

  • Outdated design.

  • Lacks features of most social networks.

Facebook still hasn't quite conquered Latvia. In this country, local social network Draugiem holds on tight to the top spot for the most popular social network. Many Latvians consider Draugiem to be an integral part of the way they communicate online, often using it in place of email. The network has over 2.6 million registered users and offers versions in English, Hungarian and Lithuanian as well.

Mixi

What We Like

  • Intuitive user experience.

  • Very reflective of Japanese culture.

  • Very addictive.

What We Don't Like

  • Difficult to edit profiles.

  • Not very unique from other social sites.

Mixi is a popular Japanese social network with a focus on entertainment and community. To join, new users must provide the network with a Japanese phone number – meaning non-residents of Japan are unable to register. Users can write blog posts, share music and videos, privately message one another and more. With over 24 million registered users, it's generally used to connect with friends in a closer manner compared to Facebook.