Socially Awkward Networks

Successful social network giants have helped stitch together the fabric of the Internet. But there's a whole slew of niche nets that dwell in their own dark corners. Take the strange case of YouFace, a social network launched last month by Uzbek businessman Ayubhon Abdullaev, that mimics Facebook in every respect ... except for constant patriotic Uzbekistani quotes on every page.

YouFace, which is not a brilliant 30 Rock throwaway gag, is also reported by Global Voices Online to have nebulous ties to Uzbekstan's government.

But borderline copyright-infringing Facebook clones aren't the only bizarre social networks out there. Some, like those weird prehistoric deep sea fish with the glowing orbs dangling off of razor-toothed faces, thrive in unique ecosystems--like South Korea or Latvia. Others serve audiences with particular needs or those with faces that look even scarier than the aforementioned prehistoric fish--we're talking about Insane Clown Posse fans. Juggalos.

Here's a look at some of the outcast cliques in the Web's social sphere.

Youface

When users login into YouFace, they're, well, faced with a nearly exact Facebook clone. However, there's one glaring difference ... a patriotic Uzbek-language quote from that country's president-for-life, Islam Karimov, saying that, “Our children must be stronger, smarter, and happier than we are.”

YouFace, which maintains nebulous ties to Uzbekstan's government, only attracted slightly more than 1,500 registered users in the two months during which it has been online. One place where YouFace differs from Facebook, however, is in the terms of service: YouFace's operators are given express permission to keep user data indefinitely after deletion. Another place is in functionality: Unlike Facebook users, YouFace users can see who's viewed their profile.

Renren

Facebook is a successful operation around the world. But in China, homegrown sites with close government ties dominate social networking. One of the most popular Chinese social networks is Renren, which is based closely on the Facebook template and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

One important difference at Renren (apart from omnipresent government- and self-censorship) is gamification: Renren users rack up points for nearly every action completed online, from typing messages to logging in.

Sina Weibo

Weibo is Chinese for “microblog.” Sina Weibo is also the country's most popular microblogging site and has a UI that feels like an uncanny mixture of Twitter and Facebook.

The site has a user base that any social networking service would be jealous of--aproximately 300 million regular visitors to the site. Just don't try looking for Ai Weiwei on there.

Ecured

Ecured is a Cuban state-operated clone of Wikipedia. While Ecured runs on a crowdsourced model somewhat similar to its American cousin, government authorities keep close tabs on IP addresses that edit articles and strictly monitor content. Users who edit articles must be approved by government censors as well. Ecured, which launched in 2010, has over 17,000 articles including one on “Yankee imperialism.”

Unlike Wikipedia's clamorous riot of left-wing and right-wing editors locking horns in perpetual neutrality, Ecured has a somewhat consistent editorial tone: Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez is described as a “cybermercenary” and “counterrevolutionary.”

Juggalobook

Juggalos, the Faygo soda-loving fans of rap group Insane Clown Posse, are one of the strangest and greatest youth tribes to ever arise in the United States. They also have a social network of their own: Juggalobook, “A Social Network for the Underground Family.”

Instead of “likes,” Juggalobook users give “whoop whoops!,” and status updates are “what's up, ninjas?” Friends, of course, are “homies.” While clown makeup-smeared horror rap fans might be underrepresented among the coastal elites who dominate venture capital and social media startups, Juggalobook has two things any social network would envy: a loyal user base and a robust open source API.

milSuite

Milsuite is a United States military social network suite that includes services milBook, milWiki, milTube, and milBlog--but access is restricted to active military personnel, civilian Defense Department employees, and military contractors. MilBook, a Defense Department Facebook clone, was designed to give military personnel a secure social network (and to stop servicemembers from accidentally leaking classified information on Facebook and Twitter).

The newest edition to the Milsuite family is Eureka, a proprietary Pentagon Reddit clone.

JewTube
It's not YouTube, it's JewTube. The badly-punned site is the self-proclaimed “leading video sharing site for the Jewish community and premier destination to watch and share Jewish-themed videos.” Popular videos include an Occupy Wall Street Sukkot service, “Bible Raps,” and pro-Israel television commercials. Not too Kosher, however, are the commercials for Dubai escort agencies that spam the site.
Familysearch
Familysearch.org is one of the internet's most popular genealogy sites, with a wealth of information, and an active blogging, forum, and wiki community. The site's extensive historical archives come from the Mormon Church, which owns and operates Familysearch. Church volunteers even operate a wiki phone hotline, for potential wiki volunteers new to the platform.
Little Monsters

Lady Gaga is one of the world's most popular pop stars. While she is an extremely canny businesswoman, she missed the jump on one thing: starting her own social network. California-based firm Backplane, cofounded by Gaga manager Troy Carter, jumped into the void, however, with their new Little Monsters social network. Participants get to “share [their] passion and creativity in a community full of art, acceptance, monsters, and Gaga.”

Draugiem
As big as Facebook and Twitter are, they sometimes can't compete with local sites. To this day, Draugiem is Latvia's biggest social network with over 1.2 million of Latvia's 2 million citizens actively using the site. While Draugiem's features are familiar to any user of Facebook, the company has used their local heft to turn into an IT dynamo--The Draugiem Group's holdings now include ecommerce sites, GPS devices, and augmented television products.
TheBearClub
No, it's not what you think it is. The Bear Club is a social networking site for adult teddy bear fans. (See? It's worse.) Members set up accounts for their bears, write blog posts in the voice of their teddy bears, and take photographs of their teddy bears in exotic locals while on vacation. Teddy Bear pawtners (not owners) also use the site to find out about the latest teddy bear conventions and special events.
TrotOn
One of the great things about the internet is that there's a site and a service for everyone. Troton is a social networking service for horse and equestrian fans ... and presumably, the Romneys. Troton's active videos site allows users to trade equestrian videos and an active bulletin board community exists. There's even a horse-themed fashion blog.
Cyworld
Cyworld is a massively popular South Korean social networking site with operations in several other Asian countries. According to Burston Marsteller, Cyworld has 18 million Korean users--but the company has not been able to crack Europe or the United States. Cyworld has faced challenges as Twitter and microblogging have become much more popular in South Korea, thanks to Twitter's country-specific efforts.