Social Networking Sites: The New Portals?
Facebook has been the rage of tech-geek conversations over the last few months. Beyond its stratospheric growth as a major competitor to social networking behemoth MySpace, the reason why is its “platform,” an easy way for outside developers and companies to install their own widgets, or applications, right into Facebook and thus have the potential to get seen and used by many millions of users.
The popularity of MySpace and Facebook has given way to a discussion of “the new portals,” web platforms that have the power and “stickiness” to attract massive audiences and keep them there for a full range of activities, from e-mailing friends and sharing photos and videos to reading articles and gathering information.
MySpace is actively angling to maintain and grow its massive audience, and one of the ways it has been doing that is to syndicate content and add original content to its offerings. For example, MySpace announced that it is adding The Onion’s unique brand of satire in the form of articles and video.
Until quite recently, MySpace relied almost exclusively on user generated content, or content created and uploaded by its millions of members. But in an effort to combat both the popularity of YouTube and Facebook, MySpace is using YouTube-competitor MySpaceTV and content partnerships as a way to bolster its own sense of portality, if I may coin the term.
One of the reasons why the Facebook platform works so well is because it allows Facebook members to opt-in to put “extra stuff” â€“ i.e. widgets that let you do things like listen to hot songs and scroll through slideshows of pictures â€“ on profile pages.
This gets down to how people, and especially young people, use the web in 2007. A typical experience with a social networking site involves logging in, checking out what changes friends have made to their profiles (newly uploaded photos, for instance), writing an e-mail or two, perhaps browsing around for new members that have joined that live in the person’s areaâ€¦ and that’s it.
Therefore, it’s not enough to add original content or syndicated content. You have to make it compelling and attractive, and then you need to give users the tools so that they can easily and seamlessly integrate it into their own web experience.
Facebook has done this. RSS is also great for this, but it has yet to break into mainstream web adoption in a big way. MySpace is trying to find its way to doing this, through what seems to be a multi-tiered strategy.
Meanwhile, MySpace appears to be making real money.