Wide or narrow? That's the question you might want to ask when you join your next social network. Is it wide, potentially exposing you to people you otherwise wouldn't meet, or is it narrow, limiting your connections to a particular group but allowing you to explore the group in more depth?
A new service, MyChurch.org, is a narrow social network. The site was created so that churches could add social networking to their own online and social programs, giving both a church's congregants and the "unchurched" a place where they could meet each other (and church officials) and do standard social network stuff: make friends, get dates, chat about things, and show off their photos.
MyChurch is more of a sales strategy than a clever new technology. Unlike the beautiful and highly interactive Faces.com social network I covered yesterday, MyChurch feels like a very spare version of MySpace. From a social perspective, it's more like Facebook--it lets you go deep into a particular community, rather than broadcasting your personality to the entire world. MyChurch is probably a great business (churches can pay extra for additional bandwidth, storage, and services), but it's hardly a technical breakout. Although there is one very clever feature: users can invite all their MySpace contacts with one click, cofounder Joe Suh told me.
What about MyMosque or MySynagogue? Suh has no immediate plans to reach out to other religions, but there are companies, such as Simpatico Networks, that build social networks for different religious groups (Simpatico is not, however, focused on individual church communities). Even more general social network software and services can be had from PeopleAggregator, which lets any group set up its own online community, or from several other companies, such as Alstrasoft, Small World Labs, Social Platform, and Sparta Social Networks.