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Take Forge.gg. It’s a “passive-streaming” application-slash-social network for gamers. It’s and app that runs in the background, recording your supported game session while also broadcasting it live to other clients and on the Forge.gg website. When you’re done, you can clip short segments of video to create “highlights” of action for posterity. You can also use the Forge client to take screenshots, removing the need to remember each game’s screenshot key and folder location. Beyond this value-added ability, Forge is also a social network of sorts. You can friend people, post status updates, and comment and like people’s activities.

Another network is Anook. This is a pure gaming social platform. Users can create “nooks” which focus on specific games. These nooks provide their members with access to individual blogs, a forum, gallery services, video visibility, and scheduling. It’s almost like a combination between Facebook and those guild hosting sites that were all the rage in the early 00’s.

I have accounts for both, but I use Forge far more than Anook because Forge offers me something that I can’t get from my Big Two networks, whereas Anook is really just focusing on what I can already do from where I have an established presence. All of my friends are on Twitter and Plus, and while they may also have Anook accounts, there’s no reason for us to use Anook when it doesn’t differ significantly from the features we get on our established networks. Forge, on the other hand, allows us to do a lot of what we can do elsewhere — video, stream, and take screenshots — but encapsulates it into one location, as opposed to having it strewn across an ecosystem of per-game configurations and a third party applications. Technically I use Forge more for its streaming and screen-shotting than for it’s social aspects, but because I am passively routed through the social gauntlet in order to use the important features, I find myself spending more time posting status updates, comments, and checking out other people’s content. This isn’t to suggest that Forge is superior to Anook, or that Anook itself is a bad option: I just don’t have a need to be anywhere else right now. If one of my existing networks went belly-up (which is always a possibility for Plus), then I think Anook would easily fill it’s shoes.

The Internet allows anyone with an idea — or an idea on how to improve or refine an existing idea — to just make it happen, and that’s a good thing. Options are always a good thing. The downside is that it will probably be tough to get people to give up what they’ve got in favor of something else. In the case of social networking, it’s a lot more complex: there’s the entire social graph that would need to be uprooted and moved, and if it’s an analogous offering that involves convincing everyone that the pain of leaving an established network behind is significantly worthwhile. Unless the new network fills a void, then I’m not sure how it could be. The good news, though, is that there’s a lot of people still out there that find the current offerings lacking, or are looking for something more targeted than general purpose networks. For every niche, there’s a place to congregate.