Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What’s next for Facebook, MySpace & others

The supposedly simple answer is finding a way to make money for the site owners- to sustain and develop the service- and for users- along the lines of Google Adsense and other profitable tools used by bloggers.

Why? Because holding a user’s interest in this age of cluttered media and hundreds of similar websites must come down to superior services and money making!

To quote a report by the Washington Post: “In the three years since networking sites like Facebook and MySpace exploded on the scene, they have revolutionized the way people interact online. MySpace had 67 million visitors last month, and Facebook, appealing heavily to college and high school students, had 23 million, according to ComScore. But even as the two sites combined add several hundred thousand members daily, the buzz can no longer mask questions about their business model.”

MySpace, which was bought two years ago by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Interactive Media and then last year signed a $900 million advertising-and-search deal with Google, has yet to post a profit. In a recent study by In-Stat research, covering firm of 400 social-networking sites, very few had successfully answered that question.

Facebook have come with an answer, announced last week, with a program that allows other parties to introduce Facebook features, which would promote revenue sharing. A Facebook member could add a feature that compiles the songs he listens to on his iPod and then informs everyone in the network of these favorite tunes. Others in his network could do the same, and this could automatically create a list of favorites reflecting the member’s entire social network.

The Washington Post, for example, is contributing a feature called “Political Compass” that allows users to determine their position on the political spectrum, based on answers to a short online questionnaire, and share that with other Facebook members.

These approaches would permit site’s members to add new, interactive features to their Facebook pages and share them with others in their online network.

The idea is for social-networking sites to make themselves more “media rich” to attract new members and retain old ones. This is particularly important because young Internet users tend to be fickle.

The next wave could come from smaller, limited community sites in which members have a common interest. This would be on the other side of the ‘social networking divide’ compared to the tens of millions of users on Facebook and MySpace. In the US, already, sites are popping up for people with spouses in the military, or moms who want to quit smoking or fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” and so on.

It’s a new trend called “Social networking with a Purpose”. It could result in a situation whereby mature users are on these specialized and limited networks, while their children and younger people stick with the ‘millions of dating and entertainement’ possibilities offered by Facebook and MySpace.

It should be interesting to see how these trends evolve. So, the answer to “what’s next” is not so simple after all!


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