Social networking emerged in 2002 as a phenomenon with the creation and meteoric rise of Friendster which was quickly mimicked by Myspace in 2003. MySpace proceeded to dominate till it peaked in 2008 when Facebook surpassed it.
Social networking has touched a nerve in the human psyche and is driven by a mix of human emotions and according to the movie “The Social Network” one of the main emotional motivators behind the creation of Facebook was a broken heart and a failed relationship (only Mark Zuckerberg knows where the real truth lies).
The emergence of thousands of social networking websites and portals means that competition is fierce but the reality is that we are time poor and to be using more than a few social media channels well requires the discipline of Michael Phelps and the the focus of a Chess player. It could also mean that you just don’t do any meaningful work.
In this social media landscape that has changed the way we use the web there are winners and losers and the sad fact is that there are more losers.
So who are the 3 biggest losers?
1. My Space
MySpace was created and launched in 2003 when several eUniverse employees who were using Friendster (the original social networking site) saw its popularity and decided to mimic its most popular features. In July 2005 MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch for $580 million and maybe he will end up being the biggest loser as MySpace continues to decline.
In 2008 it was the most popular social media site in the world but as Facebook grew and became the social channel of choice for most of the planets web citizen’s MySpace has continued to decline.
According to Comscore between January and February 2011, worldwide unique visitors to MySpace declined by a staggering 14.4% in just one month from 73 million visitors to 63 million visitors. It’s about half of the audience they had a year ago.
So why did it fail?
According to marketingbones.com these are the 5 reasons for MySpace’s decline
1. It’s a social network not an Ad network
MySpace suddenly had flashing banners and rich media offerings.
2. No brand building
There was no focus on conscious brand building efforts or on improving the user experience on MySpace.
3. No scaling-up of features
MySpace was created for 15 year olds and the entertainment industry and unfortunately, rather than expand the site to appeal to the mainstream market, NewsCorp let it stay that way. MySpace profiles were not tailored for marketing a business and if a company created a profile, it stood out of place.
4. No Spam Control
My Space is now a network of spammers and if a business wants to legitimately use MySpace’s network to market its products, it will be perceived as a spammer and will lose brand credibility.
5. Lack of standardization
You were able to create a customized MySpace page for yourself. The problem was that do-it-yourself backgrounds were painful to the eye and set Internet design standards back by 20 years. In contrast, Facebook’s standard interface was a treat and delivered a consistent user experience as opposed to MySpace’s post-industrial-garage look.
Friendster essentially invented the social networking sector in 2002 by offering users a site where they could browse profiles posted by friends and the friends of friends in search of dates and playmates.
Why was Friendster started? According to the New York Times the founder Mr. Abrams drew his inspiration to create Friendster from a broken heart brought on by a failed relationship “Basically, Jonathan wanted to meet girls,” said Mark J. Pincus, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who provided Mr. Abrams with some of the seed money to finance his project at the end of 2002. “He told me himself, he started Friendster as a way to surf through his friends’ address books for good-looking girls.”
It has been in serious decline since 2009 and the following graph shows its traffic heading south. In the last 12 months according to Compete.com it has declined from over 2.6 million visits per month to less than 1 million (a drop of 63%).
Why did it fail?
Radar O’Reilly said it was basically two issues
1. Performance issues that were not addressed by its investors.
2. Friendster fought its users. Its users wanted groups and Friendster tried to stop them from making it happen
Ning is an online platform for people to create their own networks and was the brainchild of the Netscape billionaire Marc Andreesen. It was founded in October 2005 and quickly grew and in March 2010 it had 167 employees and nearly 24 million visitors a month. According to the latest figures from Compete.com these numbers had dropped by 55% to just over 11 million in the last year.
So why is it declining?
It appears that these may be some of the reasons
- Banning of the major 3rd party plugin provider Widget Laboratory preventing use of any of their tools across Ning networks in 2008
- Removal of the search function in 2009
- Removal of free networks which was announced on April 15, 2010 and the announcement of 3 paid levels of service
If you check the graph you will notice the removal of “Free” is the most congruent match with its decline.
1. If you want to start a social network channel it helps to have a relationship problem or a broken heart
2. Don’t mess with “free” as it is still the major driver of the internet business model.
Image by birgerking