There are professional networking sites, there are social networking sites, and then there’s Facebook. Facebook deserves a category of its own since it has been setting an example for other sites for a few years now. Who would have thought that a new social networking site being launched at a time when Myspace dominated most water-cooler conversations would not only surpass Myspace.com
, but also go on to break world records, signing up new users at breakneck speed. Is Facebook the only successor?
Facebook: A brief history
“Everyone hopes for a story like Facebook.” -Jonathan Abrams, founder of Friendster
Mark Zuckerberg launched his social networking site in February of 2004
. It took four and a half years to touch 100 million members in August 2008. Currently, it already has more than 400 million members by its own admission and growing week on week at 3%. It recently received a valuation
of $23 billion.Its biggest threat is said to be Twitter. Even Twitter, however, has an estimated user-base of only close to a million members. There are more Farmville Players than Twitter users as of beginning this year.
Other networking sites
Apart from Twitter, which is bound to give Facebook a run for its money sooner rather than later, there are sites like Myspace and other networking sites in other languages which still are said to be still competitors. We however believe the opposite. There is a clear trend to one single platform that aggregates data from other social sites into one place. That is Facebook.
Specialized sites to win alongside Facebook?
More and more niche sites have established in the social World. Sites like YouTube, Twitter and Blogspot are all specialized. General sites like MySpace are dead. Niche-Sites win. The trend here is to go niche and to allow aggregation with other social media sites.For example LinkedIn has smartly decided to restrict itself to professional networking. For users looking to build an online portfolio to show to prospective employers, or companies looking for fresh talent, LinkedIn is the site of choice. It has been fully customized for professional networking. It recently tied up with Twitter
to allow easy twitter integration. Once the account is added you can selectively choose which tweets you want to appear simply by appending a #in tag at the end of the tweet.Facebook already went ahead and integrated Videos, Pictures, Hot Stories and much more.
It seems like Facebook aims to become the one provider for everything. The consequence for niche sites is to continuously improve by adding new features which the users want to see. Only that way they can remain on top and keep their competitive advantages.
How long will Facebook maintain its advantage?
It would seem it’s just a matter of time before one of its competitors comes up with a brilliant new idea and seriously challenges Facebook. But facebook’s popularity is not just in its founder’s innovativeness. It is founded upon the thousands of app developers for Facebook and the extensive yet easy-to-use interface. And then there’s the problem of herd mentality. Growth on any site increases exponentially, since each person signing up causes multiple friends to sign up as well. With that in mind, Facebook has a very strong advantage.
Does it need to change further?
The site owner isn’t content with what he has already made. New features are added every day. Most of them serve to make digital media sharing simpler, such as the latest feature of automatically recognizing faces in pictures. Right now, users are demanding nothing more than what they already have, except maybe a dislike button
. The only thing Facebook needs to change is its privacy settings, which has faced a lot of heat
.It is unlikely that Facebook will be challenged for supremacy in the networking field for the next year or so. And if it manages to remain a few steps ahead of its competition, there’s no way anyone can catch up.