Google's $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube turned a spotlight on social networking.
I went looking for a practical definition of social networking today. The one I liked best came from PCMag.com:
"A Web site that provides a virtual community for people interested in a subject . . . Either by invitation only or open to the general public, the term "social networking site" is the 21st century term for "virtual community," a group of people who use the Internet to communicate with each other about anything and everything."
According to Wikipedia, the term "social network" was coined back in 1954. It's interesting to note, at that time, the maximum size of a social network was estimated to be around 150 people, with the average size around 124.
Wikipedia says the first social networking website, Classmates.com, started in 1995, some forty years later.
The top four social networking websites in May, 2006, according to Nielsen/NetRatings were MySpace, Blogger, Classmates Online and YouTube respectively.
In August, 2006, Compete.com claimed that YouTube had overtaken the #2 slot, pushing Blogger and Classmates to #3 and #4 respectively. Compete.com listed Facebook.com as #5.
I reported in a previous blog that, in July, 2005, Rupert Murdoch's company
--News Corporation--purchased MySpace for $650 million. At that time, the BBC estimated that MySpace was the "fifth most-viewed internet domain in the US" (in terms of page views). By all accounts, MySpace is the #1 social networking site at this time with nearly 100 million members.
Google's announcement on Monday of its proposed purchase of YouTube gives the Internet giant the #2 and #3 social networking sites (YouTube and Blogger).
Last month, rumors began to surface that Yahoo was in acquisition talks with Facebook. Charlene Li, a technology researcher for Forrester, said that Yahoo needed to "jumpstart their social networking initiatives--and an acquisition is the fastest way to do it to counter the growth of MySpace and YouTube."
Facebook was begun at Harvard in February, 2004, by a student and began by offering photos and contact information. Other features were quickly added allowing users to customize their individual pages and to communicate with each other. The service rapidly spread to other colleges and universities. By August, 2005, Facebook was logging nine million U.S. visitors a month. And these users are a coveted demographic: young people.
The Wall Street Journal reported on October 12th, that "while discussions are continuing, no purchase of the closely held Facebook social-networking site is imminent . . . a deal is unlikely unless Yahoo increases its roughly $1 billion offer or changing business conditions made Facebook's management more inclined to sell."
I predict that if Yahoo continues to drag its feet, another suitor--goaded by Google's juggernaut approach--will come forward to purchase Facebook. The company has already been in talks with Microsoft and Viacom.