Then why were you so surprised that I pay $5? Also just because you have been a Premiere Member does not mean you know all the benefits. They've updated a few of them recently, and there has been at least 1 new benefit last month, and a new benefit this month. The new discount sometimes pays for the $5 fee by it's self.
Pakaku said it exactly, as in a basic description of what dA is. Neither you or your friend are really correct. It's a social network centrally based around art. While it does have similarities to both a hosting domain and Facebook, it is quite different from both. A host only hosts user uploaded content and may offer some site building tools, but dA does not offer a site building tool, it offers a space to be curated by each individual user. Hosting is merely a facet of what dA does. A hosting domain also has no social networking, no commenting between users, or public interconnecting of content. It is also different from Facebook in that FB is designed for personal, private content about anything. It is geared towards everyday life aspects, while dA is specifically geared towards art and artists building a community, everything else being secondary to that. Facebook also allows users to tailor small, quick "statuses" to be shared only to specific groups of people or to no one at all. It is a single home page with streaming updated news posted by other people and a personal page that shows your own news. dA has much much more features and content being delivered than Facebook, including public forums, chatrooms, a store for buying art, and an online drawing app.
Just because two things cost money, that doesn't make them comparably the same kind of service.
You can't actually do much with a Custom widget other than add a background image, place icons or thumbs provided by dA's coding, and write text like you do everywhere else. And again, it's not your own site. It's space given to you by dA and regulated by rules and limitations designed for a social networking community, not a personal site. Lastly, you can use coding just about everywhere here. You can style your journal entirely with CSS, though it's still limited to coding dA allows and all images you use in it have to either be hosted on a separate site or uploaded to dA, which dA can remove said content at will.
I mean if the question here is what is dA similar to, you can compare it to countless things, not only Facebook and web hosting. It's similar to both, but in only some ways. I could say it's similar to hunting because you search for images to collect and take home. I could say it's like a bunch of t-shirt buttons, because showing your faves is like how wearing a button displays what you're interested in. dA shares similarities with lots of things, but dA is itself unique, just like how Facebook is not Hosting and Hosting is not Facebook.
If I had to choose one though, I'd say the person who said it was like Facebook is more right than you, because FB is at least a social network, which is the basis of dA's core function and success.