How Hi5 Works

Hi5 lets you create a customized member profile with your own images and themes. See more pictures of popular web sites.
Screenshot by Nathan Chandler

Social networking sites are getting bigger and better every day, but if you don't find Facebook and MySpace to your liking, you have plenty of other options. One of the most popular is Hi5. Hi5 shares many similarities with social network sites that are already household names, but it introduces some twists that make it worthwhile for people who love trying out new and interesting online communities.

Hi5 bears more than a passing visual resemblance to other social networking sites. It also shares statistical parallels with MySpace and Facebook; all three are among the top 25 most-visited Web sites in the world [source: Comscore]. That may surprise you if you live in the United States and you haven't heard of Hi5 before. But there's a good reason for that: Ramu Yalamanchi founded the site in 2003, and he purposely focused building a membership base in countries other than the United States, in part to avoid struggling against its well-established competitors.

That strategy seems to be serving Hi5 very well. The site now claims around 60 million members from more than 200 countries, and tellingly, the majority of those members aren't from the United States [sources: Hi5, TechCrunch].

In addition to stressing its expansion in other countries, Hi5 is deploying other tactics to attract new members. One of the site's biggest transformations is the addition of many entertainment options, primarily in the form of games. Members can select from a huge slate of online or downloadable games. Many of those games are free, while others, like those from name-brand game supplier RealNetworks, require payment.

So whether you're looking for a posse of new friends or want to unwind with some fun games, Hi5 is becoming a top online destination. Keep reading to see how you can get the most of this burgeoning online community.

Using Hi5

Having trouble making new friends on Hi5? Send an attached clip art gift to make your friend request more attractive.
Having trouble making new friends on Hi5? Send an attached clip art gift to make your friend request more attractive.
Screenshot by Nathan Chandler

Anyone can sign up for a free Hi5 account and begin using the site within minutes. Like other social networking sites, as you complete the registration process, Hi5 requests your e-mail address and password so it can invite your friends to use the site, too. Don't want to bother people in your address book with e-mails from Hi5? Be sure to take your time, read the registration instructions and skip this part of the procedure.

After you register, you'll see that Hi5's interface is akin to the layouts on Tagged and MySpace. Many of the options are similar, too. You'll need to create a customized profile that includes your picture and some particulars about your interests for other members to browse. At a glance, other users will see your age, gender, hometown, education and a short description of your hobbies. If you don't want random people to view these details, you can hide them from members you haven't yet accepted as friends.

There are many ways to share information and fun with your Hi5 friends. You can upload photo galleries, write in a journal or create a scrapbook of your online life. Hi5 also helps you find old friends. Using the advanced search features, you can locate people by school name, graduation date and other criteria. After you find someone you know, you can ask them to connect with you as a friend on the site.

Once you a have group of Hi5 friends, you'll see that the site categorizes your acquaintances using a method similar to the one used by LinkedIn. Your direct friends are 1st-degree friends, while 2nd-degree friends are friends of your direct friends. You may also see 3rd-degree friends listed; these are the friends of the friends of your direct friends.

Benefits of Hi5

Hi5 focuses on providing a lot of entertainment for its members. You can choose from dozens of online or downloadable games.
Hi5 focuses on providing a lot of entertainment for its members. You can choose from dozens of online or downloadable games.
Screenshot by Nathan Chandler

Though Hi5 is a lot like other social networking sites, it does offer its own blend of features and benefits. The most powerful features of Hi5 are those that help you reconnect with old friends and classmates, meet new acquaintances around the world, and choose from a vast selection of entertainment options.

Hi5 also provides status updates for all of your friends so they know what you're up to. In your profile, type a few words in the What Are You Doing Now? text box to let others know how your day is going. By browsing your friends' profiles, you can see at a glance what they're doing, too.

Hi5 harnesses the worldwide reach of the Web to help you find brand-new friends, a task that not all social sites stress. Whether you're looking for an online pen pal or searching for a mate, Hi5 provides many tools for socializing. The Flirt feature lets you quickly browse through dozens of potential dating partners in a specific age range and geographical area. If you're interested, simply click Yes, and that member will receive a notification from you. If that member likes your Flirt request, Hi5 adds them to your friends list.

You can make your Flirt requests or other messages more exciting for recipients by attaching gifts. Hi5 gifts are basically clip-art icons of everything from roses to kittens that you can send to all of your friends. However, unlike most of the site's features, gifts aren't free. You need Hi5 coins in order to buy and send gifts. You can earn those coins by completing marketing surveys or by buying them outright with a credit card.

In addition to socializing capabilities, the site offers fun applications and games. Applications help you with everything from dating and gaming to creating online classifieds. They'll also let you add music to your profile or make video greetings. Popular apps include RockYou Pets, which lets you raise a pet of your choice, and TopFriends, which makes it easier to track your best friends through your own member profile.

If its games you're after, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better selection than Hi5's; you can play free online games or download titles costing up to around $50. Free game trials are common, so you can often try before you buy. There are more than 20 game categories, such as sports, role-playing, casino, strategy and puzzle, to keep you occupied for a very long time.

Hi5 Security

Online criminals and troublemakers often exploit popular Web sites for their own gains, and Hi5 isn't exempt from these issues. As with all online activities, you should be vigilant about protecting your computer and your identity when using Hi5.

Phishing scams often originate via e-mail and attempt to ply personal information from unsuspecting victims. One so-called phishing scam targets Hi5 members, who are baited with a friend request notification in their e-mail inbox. They're told to enter their member name and password to accept a new friend, but unfortunately, it's a setup. If you enter your login information, you won't make a connection to a new friend; instead, you're unknowingly giving your password to people running the scam. With your password, they can log into your account and see your personal information and use it for nefarious purposes.

Scam e-mails often look like legitimate requests, but you can avoid them by following a few rules. For one, never submit your password or other personal information as a response to e-mail requests. And if you're suspicious of a request you receive, listen to your intuition and do a little online research before you enter any information. Many common scams are well-documented online and you can avoid them withy a quick keyword search.

There are other ways to identify phishing scams that specificall target Hi5 members. The fake Hi5 e-mails have graphics and logos similar to those from the real Web site, but there are significant differences. If you carefully examine the e-mail, you'll see that not all of the links (such as the one that supposedly leads to a new member registration form) don't work. If you do enter your login information, you'll find that the links don't lead to a login page, but rather totally different domain name, which is a clear sign that someone is trying to fool you.

If you do find that you've fallen victim to a Hi5 phishing scam, all is not lost. Log into your Hi5 account as soon as possible and change your password so that unauthorized individuals can't snoop around in your personal information. With a little caution, you'll be using your Hi5 account safely and with few risks to your personal details.

For more on social networking sites, take a look at the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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