Thursday, April 16, 2009

Social networking - the next web 2.0

I still remember the day (sometime in 2004 or early 2005 when I was still in grad school) when my cousin sent me an email with a link to join facebook. I thought "yet another dating website scam- damn these sophomores are jobless" and I just ignored the email. At that time I had a profile at Orkut (which I still have) - a social network (owned by google) not so popular in the states (Orkut is very popular in India). After a year I joined facebook.

I was never a big fan of social networking. I joined linked-in when I graduated and started working and wanted to be connected to my colleagues at work. I joined facebook because I had a few friends in facebook around the time I joined and thought it would be really cool to have a presence in the online world, especially in facebook. As of today, I have a twitter, facebook, orkut, myspace, linkedIn, ning accounts. I joined twitter a couple of months ago when I first heard about it at a austin local meetup. I actively use only my twitter and facebook these days and login to my linked-in to add new connections.

In a world where emails, phone numbers, physical addresses are subject to change, social networking websites are a good place to keep connected.

I recently heard from a serial entrepreneur that if he wants to hire or interview someone, he would certainly check their profile, connections, references in linked-in and then their social life in facebook/twitter.

Among the social networking sites, one of the reasons facebook has grown rapidly in such short span is because of user-created applications (just like how iphone has become very popular because of the apps), Even after you join facebook, there are lots of things you can do and not just write on a wall or scrap (which was the only thing you could do at orkut). You can share photos, tag photos, take surveys (although I Still think certain surverys are so lame). LinkedIn, MySpace or Orkut serves merely to connect people. Twitter grew because of the niche value its offering.

The final question that ponders me is how do sites like facebook/twitter get venture funding and whether they really have a business and revenue model. All these sites are trying to do right now is attract more users. Maybe, at somepoint people will become so dependent on them. At that time these sites will figure out a way to make money (acquisition probably?). Remember, When google started, they did not have a business model other than allowing other websites to use their search feature. Can anyone imagine a day without google these days? Maybe facebook and twitter are trying to follow the footsteps of google.

Now some facts about social networking:
- Thirty-five percent of US Web users aged 18 or older have a profile on a social network such as Facebook. This number has grown from a mere eight percent in 2005.
- In general, it seems the number of adults who use social networks declines with age
- Seventy-five percent of online Americans aged 18 to 24 years old belong to a social network; 57 percent of those aged 25 to 34; 30 percent of those aged 35 to 44; 19 percent of those aged 45 to 54; 10 percent of those aged 55 to 64 and just seven percent of those aged 65 and older.
- Sixty-five percent of online Americans aged 12 to 17 years old use social networks.
- Fifty percent of adult social network users have a profile on MySpace, the survey found, while 22 percent have a profile on Facebook, six percent have a profile on LinkedIn.
- Eighty-nine percent of the adult Web users surveyed said they use their online profiles to keep up with friends, 57 percent said they use them to make plans with friends and 49 percent said they use them to make new friends.

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