5 Hot Social Networking Sites

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And three sites that went from hot to not.....and are now hoping to get back in the game.

1. MySpace

5 Hot Social Networking Sites
a. Founders and date founded: Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe; 2003

b. What it does: The new MySpace is an entertainment network that connects members to music, celebrities, TV, movies and games. Users customize their own pages to feature their entertainment specialty. MySpace Music has an expanding catalog of free streaming audio and video content for members to view and use. However, much of the site has become more of a huge, online portfolio for unknowns to post their works.

c. Why it declined: Back when Facebook membership was limited to college students only, MySpace built up a strong following among high-schoolers and others without an .edu email address. But once Facebook opened its membership up to everyone, MySpace started to spiral down. In January, MySpace tried to re-invent itself by focusing primarily on pop culture and entertainment. It still ranks in the top five social networks for members/usage, but the popularity of this one-time giant and only real Facebook competitor has fallen drastically. In fact, it was announced last week that News Corp has sold social media site Myspace for about $35 million to online advertising company Specific Media, according to a source familiar with the transaction. The deal calls for News Corp to retain a minority stake in the website that it purchased six years ago for $580 million, the companies said.

In January, the company laid off 47% of its staff in an effort to revive the site's financials. This coincided with the redesign and refocus on the entertainment industry.

d. Stats: Claims 100 million users worldwide with 23% new growth this year, and 50% market share in the 13-35 demographic in the United States. And, advertises that the Myspace Mobile users spend over 40 minutes a week on this service.

e. Funding sources: Acquired by News Corp. in October 2005

2. Friendster

5 Hot Social Networking Sites
a. Founders and date founded: Jonathan Abrams and Peter Chin; 2002

b. What it does: Like MySpace, Friendster has redesigned its site to focus more on music and gaming. It looks a lot like IMVU with its new offerings of games and avatars, but has also incorporated a number of the MySpace features in the music areas. It provides similar options for connecting with friends and family, but still lacks the numerous features and functionality of Facebook and MySpace.

c. Why it declined: Friendster famously lost out to Facebook in the battle to become THE social networking site. Abrams, himself, told students in a Stanford Graduate School of Business class that Friendster is now used as a business school case study of what not to do. Still, Friendster is popular in Asia.

d. Stats (page views, number of subscribers, followers, etc.): 90% of the traffic is from Asia; 115 million registered users; 61 million unique visitors a month (globally); 19 billion page views per month.

e. Funding sources: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures , IDG Ventures.

Acquired in December 2009 by MOL Global

3. Classmates (now called Memory Lane)

a. Founders and date founded: Randy Conrads; 1995

b. What it does: Originally, it was just set up to allow members to search for classmates by the years of school attendance or by graduation date, plan events such as reunions, and create bulletin boards for notes and messages; however, it was just completely redesigned with a sort of "50s" look and a new slogan claiming that it's the "premier destination for accessing nostalgic content, yearbooks, and connecting with people."

c. Why it declined: It has less functionality than its competitors (Facebook, MySpace, etc.), a confusing interface, and it charged members for services that all the other social networks provide for free.

Also, its business practices generated a fair amount of criticism. Some members complained via online forums that it auto-renewed memberships without permission, and, in 2006, PC World magazine listed Classmates.com as one of the worst companies for cancelling membership.

Also criticized was its practice of sending out emails to new, potential members that said old friends and classmates were searching for them, but requiring that people paid for a membership before being allowed to see who those old friends were.

d. Stats (page views, number of subscribers, followers, etc.): According to Classmates, it receives 566,876 page views per day and 225,540 visitors a day.

e. Funding sources: Madrona Venture Group was the primary funding source for Classmates.com. The company was acquired by United Online Inc. in 2004. United Online reports the first quarter (2011) results as follows: total revenues of $241.5 million, operating income of $22.6 million and adjusted OIBDA of $44.2 million.

The bottom line, according to the analysts, is that success in the social networking environment depends on four things: the site must be designed for mobile platforms; it should use game mechanics as a reward system; it must be original, no more clones; and it can't be proprietary ; that is, it has to easily integrate and share information, friend lists, favorites, etc.

Sartain is the author of "Data Networks 101" and a freelance journalist from Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at julesds@comcast.net.

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This story, "5 Hot Social Networking Sites" was originally published by Network World.

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