They’re growing like weeds. The U.S. and UK still seem to be ahead of the pack when it comes to social network media but other countries are gaining speed. While people often think of Facebook and MySpace when it comes to social networks, the truth is there are many others out there, particularly when it comes to other countries.
As of right now, MySpace and Facebook are ranked as the top two sites in the U.S. in regards to repeat traffic. Projected revenues for 2008 show MySpace at $755 million; Facebook comes in a distant second with $265 million.
A May report from ComScore supports those findings; however Facebook seems to be growing much faster in overseas markets. Trend analysts report that Facebook is making a splash in the UK, China, France, and India. Orkut is still tops in India while Bebo is a hit in the UK and other parts of Europe. Perhaps AOL wasn’t so far off when they purchased Bebo for $850 million.
There is bad news for established social networks abroad. Some companies are encouraging users to express their creativity by creating their own Facebook-type sites. Naturally, those companies are also selling the software to make it possible.
India based Agriya Infoway sells what it calls “Kootali,” a $400 software package that permits developers to duplicate Facebook’s design and a number of its features, such as photo sharing, friend networks, and “mini-feeds”. It even uses Facebook’s famous font. Agriya’s chief technology officer, Aravind Kumar, doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the legal implications of creating a Facebook clone. “We haven’t stolen any of Facebook’s content or images, so we haven’t done anything wrong,” Kumar says. “We’re just giving Facebook’s look and feel to our customers.”
To date, the software and its resulting websites, such as Faceclub.com and Umicity.com, don’t seem to concern Facebook. How long that will remain true is yet to be seen. Experts have commented, however, that Facebook would be foolish to push the legal angle. If lawsuits were brought about for copyright infringement, Facebook may find itself on the receiving end due to some of the content posted on its various networks. In other words, the company doesn’t seem to be ready to open that particular can of worms.
“Facebook is being particularly careful,” says John Dozier, an Internet-focused intellectual property lawyer. “They recognize the danger that overly aggressive copyright claims can backfire.”
There are some international Facebook clones that have experienced success. For example, German clone StudiVerzeichnis (“Student Index”) has approximately 6 million registered users. The Russian network VKontakte (“In Contact”) reports 4.5 million unique visitors per day and with 13.3 million registered users it is also the most popular website in Russia, bar none. Chinese based Xiaonei (Mandarin for “In the School”) claims to have had 15 million unique visitors during the month of April. According to Xiaonei’s parent company, Oak Pacific Interactive, their site reflects approximately more than 90% of college students throughout China.
It also seems that the clones have vision and are beginning to seek international users. One common trend is to ask volunteers to translate sites into other languages. If this trend takes hold, the number of 300,000+ social networking sites will surely skyrocket.