You may be forgiven for thinking that in terms of social network platforms, there really is only four worth considering; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. After all, these are probably the best known and most talked about of the social networking sites. However, there are about 203 different social networks out there, some of which are bigger than both LinkedIn and Google+.
In fact, new networks are springing up all the time with the launch this week of an exclusive social network “Best of All Worlds” which is an invitation only emulation of a virtual “country club”.
Earlier this month, a Twitter-like network App.net also
launched with the first members paying for access to the
advertising-free social network. While advertising on Twitter has so far
been obtrusive the company is aggressively ramping up its advertising capabilities.
This is not the first time that a social network has launched
on the premise of addressing what is seen as a fundamental flaw in the
existing big four platforms. Diaspora started two years ago to address
the increasing privacy concerns of Facebook users. It also picked up
users who defected from the fledgling Google+ over the so-called “nymwars" that
resulted from Google’s insistence on people using their real names
rather than pseudonyms. Google was closing down accounts that it
considered were not conforming to its community standards by using a
But Diaspora has failed to catch on and this week it moved to being a community project. The original developers have moved their focus over to a site called Makr.io which
is a “meme generator” site. Basically this allows users to put comments
on images and then share them with friends and the public.
Apart from this being a fairly sad move from the sublime to the
ridiculous, it does reflect the fact that the concerns people express
about Facebook and other platforms have not been sufficient to have
people voting with their virtual feet by shifting elsewhere. In the case
of Diaspora, their good intentions was not enough to make up for a
fairly clunky software experience.
Shuffling between networks
Social networks are essentially sticky. To move, you have to
decide to abandon the people you are connected to unless they all move
with you. Given that according to Pew Research, the average person on Facebook has 229 friends, this is unlikely to happen.
What is happening, however, is that people are using more than one social networking platform. Other than business and special interests, there are sites that cater for people’s language, culture and now even religion Salamworld plans to provide a social network environment that adheres to the principals of Islam.
Users will be safe in the knowledge of not encountering
pictures of drunk relatives in various states of undress. Christians
already have their own social network called Cross.tv which has around 450,000 members.
Sites such as patientslikeme reflect
another sub-specialty of social network where the site offers
particular functionality, in this case charting your progress with a
chronic disease or illness whilst connecting you with other people in a
similar situation. They are the most likely to understand what you as an
individual is going through and so offers an opportunity for support
that would be harder to achieve on Facebook.
More than just a community
An interesting development in the spread of social networking sites is the use of Facebook as a means of account
creation, identification and signing on. Other than making it very easy
to get started with a new site, it reflects the acknowledgement that
the new user is going to continue using Facebook and social networking
sites are using Facebook to network their own network. In the process,
Facebook becomes the social networking glue between all other networks.
Whether there is much cross-over from one network to another will be
interesting to see.
For new sites like Best of All Worlds, the outlook is
promising. The actual mechanics of using social networks are becoming
second nature to us, as is the ability to be involved with more than one
network. The idea of exclusivity or some other lure will appeal and
will be something that people are prepared to pay for. It is only a
matter of time before Facebook, Twitter and even Google+ moves to a
freemium model and tries to compete in that space.