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Social networking

Social networking sites I’ve heard of or seen so far (not including the ones geared toward specific cultures/ethnicities):

• Myspace
• Friendster
• Imeem
• Orkut
• Yahoo! 360
• MSN Spaces
• Facebook

The Internet is getting contaminated (I had to think of the right word, and that seems like it) with tens of sites all designed for the same purpose. Competition is good in the marketplace, but the problem is the mission of these sites is to bring people together – people who already know each other as well as strangers. How is that goal to be accomplished if you have to sign-up for 10 different online communities, establish an elaborate profile for each one, and then routinely check in at every one of them? The person with other things to do will give up after a few days.

Myspace is the clear leader in social networking websites at the moment, but Friendster and Orkut have very many people themselves. I doubt those people are exclusively on Friendster, but just browsing through the homepages of these websites and seeing the sampling of their members they each offer, I feel frustration inside at how scattered everyone is and that there’s not just one place for everyone to mingle.

If there were just one place, it would virtually be a monopoly (like Microsoft). Pretty soon the corporate heads would be dictating how people interact on their “one” website. In that sense the competition is good. But the way things stand right now it doesn’t feel like competition. Most of these websites build on a particular theme (Myspace on music, Facebook on colleges), but some people, like myself, wish to meet people outside their regular social circle, with its essentially static list of interests and activities. For that purpose the general networking sites are noteworthy. But the whole problem (the reason why I’m writing this blurb) is that right now they’re not fulfilling their purpose because there are too many of them. It’s not even a case of quality vs. quantity because the companies are all implementing interesting and innovative features on their websites to attract customers (that’s essentially what we are). The problem is the follow-the-pack habit of the consumer itself. We go where our friends are; our friends go where their friends are, and the cycle gets started because someone you know knows someone at the company whose website you’re using. That’s another side of social networking – the “real world” side. So first we network through traditional channels – word of mouth, referrals – and when the momentum’s built up, when the community has sizable roster, we begin networking outside our milieu.

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