It seems there are new social tools created everyday. So I had a few questions:

  • How long does it take for these networks to reach critical mass?
  • What happens when the market is saturated?
  • How many networks are people willing to invest time into?
  • What’s next for them?

To answer the first question I went to Google trends and plotted MySpace versus Facebook.

From this it looks like myspace has peaked and facebook is nearly as popular now. Next I went to alexia.com which ranks sites.Here are the top 20 sites:

Rank Change Web Site
1 (none) yahoo.com
2 up 1 google.com
3 up 1 live.com
4 up 1 youtube.com
5 down 3 msn.com
6 (none) myspace.com
7 up 4 facebook.com
8 up 1 wikipedia.org
9 up 1 hi5.com
10 down 2 orkut.com
11 up 2 rapidshare.com
12 up 2 blogger.com
13 up 2 megaupload.com
14 up 3 friendster.com
15 up 1 yahoo.co.jp
16 down 7 baidu.com
17 up 2 fotolog.net
18 down 1 microsoft.com
19 up 4 google.fr
20 down 7 qq.com

Of the top 20 – Myspace, Freindster, facebook, orkut, and hi5 are all social networks (a collection of personal profiles linked together and competing for attention). The rest of the list is search engines, webhosts (which rank high because a lot of websites have that domain like rapidshare.com and blogger.com), and wikipedia – the king of user created content. Baidu.com is the top Chinese search engine.

Here is the one year trend for social sites on alexa:

One thing that is clear about the top 20 sites – user generated content is definitely king. Not a single site other than microsoft.com pay for content – they all harvest, search, sort, rank, and enable the general public to do it for them.

So getting back to social networks, how long can these things last, I think once they hit the level myspace and face book are currently, they have to innovate quickly or die. Like shopping malls in the real world, the crowds come for a while but are quickly lured away by brighter lights. Plus, a lot of users begin to get turned off when a system is seen as too main stream and want the cool factor of the next great thing. In any case there are plenty of options for users to try. While I do have profiles at Linkedin and facebook, I don’t update them. If I’m going to generate content, I want more control over it then those sites allow. Also, I want to benefit from the advertising.

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