Social networking on the web - almost better than sex
By Andy Goldberg Jul 8, 2007, 13:18 GMT
San Francisco - When internet consultant Giovanni Galluci first joined the professional networking site LinkedIn two years ago, he felt like a pioneer. Now he's one of millions.
'I figured I was cutting edge, but now everyone's doing it,' says the expert on social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.
Gallucci, 31, is the publisher of socialmediatracker.com, a guide to the community sites which are becoming almost as popular as porn.
According to figures from Hitwise, a firm which studies internet trends, net communities and porn both accounted for about 10.8 per cent of all pages viewed online in March 2007, as online networks added users and porn sites lost them. Still not impressed? Try looking at it this way: The 10 biggest social networking sites had over 200 million visitors in March. Together, their users blogged, tagged, uploaded, messaged and viewed a staggering 34 billion individual web pages.
Numbers like that show that social networking sites have reached far beyond the high school playground and college campus. 'I know there are a lot of teens on MySpace and they seem to be taking over the Web lately, but it's not just the teens, believe me,' says Linda Roeder, the personal web pages guide for About.com. 'A big part of anything on the web are the older crowd. The parents, the sci-fi crowd, the TV and movie fans. Most of them are 20 something, 30 something, and older.'
So what's the big attraction? You don't have to be a compulsive blogger or rabid exhibitionist to take advantage of these sites. Actually, if you know how to turn on a computer, have at least one interest in life, and are vaguely tolerant of interacting with other people, there's a site out their with your name on it.
'There's a social network for literally every single niche,' says Steve O'Hear, who writes a blog on social networking for tech website ZDNet.
The experts agree that there are just three things that people really join these easy-to-use sites for: to pursue a hobby, to connect with friends or to rediscover old friends.
MySpace still dominates with 55 million members who surf through user-submitted networks of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. But MySpace has its drawbacks. It skews to a younger demographic and its sheer size can make you feel like a lonely country bumpkin plopped down in the centre of New York City.
Facebook.com seem more mature. It's easier than Myspace to be selective about whom you interact with and is growing much faster than MySpace in the US.
The well-known social media sites like YouTube, Flickr and Digg allow people to interact through photos, videos and news stories. Last.fm links music lovers up with others of similar taste and produces personalized radio stations. Librarything allows users to share reading lists and other information on books. Flixstr is for movie lovers, catster and dogster are for pet lovers, and LinkedIn is for corporate contact lovers who use personal references and friends of friends to try to get ahead in business.
Every day sees a new social networking site catering to a niche that you would never imagine existed. Neighborrow invites you to loan stuff to people in your neighborrowhood, videomodelpics.com enhances the community of beautiful people, and EveningExchange is one of those sites where teenagers are certainly not welcome.
Many of these sites will no longer exist a few years down the road. But the genre is here to stay thanks to its ability to link people with other like-minded individuals. It's also spreading from computers to cellphones and becoming the default method of communication for the networked generation.
'Soon everyone will be communicating via open services,' says Galluci. 'You click on someone's profile and send them a message. Social networking is the email of the future.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur