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Where is social networking going?

June 27th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The latest figures for Facebook are interesting. Facebook appears to have had fewer monthly active users at the start of June than at the start of May in the US, UK and Canada — at least according to one data source — even as it has grown bigger than ever worldwide. this could suggest that the market is by now saturated or even that people are moving on.

My own take is that whilst Facebook has alienated significant numbers of people with rampant commercialism and a cavalier attitude to privacy this is probably only amongst early adopters and the tech community. More important is the growth of more niche social networking applications.

Although Linkedin can hardly be described as niche, it is interesting to see the growth of Linkedin Groups and the high level of activity – at least in the groups of which I am a member.

I suspect people are increasingly separating out their presence (and digital identities) in different social networking applications and communities. And whilst size may be good, in terms of income the ‘professional’ social networks may turn out to be more sustainable and profitable tin the long term.

Interesting then to see the launch of a professional networking application for Facebook. In the last few weeks i have had some tens of messages saying:

“I’d like you to join my professional network on Facebook.

Graham – it’s professional networking with friends and friends of friends on Facebook. Feels like it can be very valuable to us.”

The messages come from a Facebook app called BranchOut. Given they all had the same wording I ignored them, but thinking about this blog post I did have a look. But once more I was put off by the privacy or lack of it. Although the video from BranchOut makes a big point that they will not access your photos, it asks for permissions to your wall, to all of your friends and demands an email address to send mail.

I guess once they have your friends list, they are auto spamming with messages such as above. Although once more this may result in rapid growth, I doubt it will do much for their reputation.

Linkedin may be a little staid and boring. But at least it seems to have evolved sensible privacy rules.

I think this will be critical for anyone trying to break into the social networking market.

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