This could be the Facebook "alternative", in that it allows users to create a free profile, gather groups of "friends," (anyone they know who also subscribes to the site), and interact with them via the web. It provides users with similar capabilities - allows you to create events, invite specific "friends" within groups as you choose, post comments, participate in discussion boards, etc. Ning takes what started as a way for college kids to connect with one another and orient themselves to their new environment away from home (Facebook), and puts a business/marketing spin on it. Ning allows users to create networks within their networks (very "Google+" -esque) and send direct-to-email mailings to specific groups, run branded ads, sell merchandise directly to a specified group of users. It seems like a great way to communicate internally with coworkers, externally with clients and soon-to-be clients, and sell, sell, sell! It is a platform for building additional revenue and monitoring customer relationships. Being a new tool, I think Ning will face some difficulties breaking into the mainstream. People of all walks of life are comfortable with Facebook and other mainstream sites, and don't want to leave those calm waters to try something new. I'll be watching this one to see if it catches on.
The LinkedIn "alternative". It doesn't look like it's quite fully developed from the website (I can't get a feel for how it differs from LinkedIn), but I'm curious - has anyone been successful with, or tried this?
Check 'em out! Are there any other social "alternative" sites that you know of?