MySpace vs Facebook

Posted By BrokenClaw on May 1, 2008

MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo are three of the most popular social networking sites on the Internet today. Social network is a sociology term which has been applied to a feature of technology that allows users to interact with their own groups of friends and acquaintances through a variety of methods beyond email, including text messages, voice chat, video sharing, and blogging. The basis of online social networking is the creation of an account and personal webpage on the website.

In the early days of the Web, many websites invited users to create their own free webpage, such as Geocities, which was purchased by Yahoo. The idea was a simple one, to drive Internet traffic to the users’ pages, to generate revenue based on advertising. A primary advance of the social network sites, and the basis of the terminology, is that they allow users to connect their page to other users on the site, typically described as friends. Yahoo tried to update the Geocities service with a new version they called Yahoo 360° , but that project was too little too late, and was abandoned by Yahoo within a few years.

By viewing a person’s page, you can see who their friends are, click on them, see who their friends are, etc. Another feature is that users can tag their page with particular interests and hobbies, so that other users with similar interests can find new acquaintances (see Facebook below). In practice, however, few people see value in “finding new friends” and use the services exclusively for finding old friends.

The main use of the social networks, though, is to stay connected with your friends on a day to day basis. Instead of sending an email to each person, a user can post a message (text, audio, photo, or video) which gets sent out automatically to whichever group of friends they create.

Today there are probably hundreds of social networking sites, although many of them are targeted at specific groups of users, instead of the public at large, and some which charge a fee. One of the oldest sites is Classmates, designed to connect high school classmates from across the country, which was launched long before the term social networking was an Internet buzzword. In hindsight, it seems as though Classmates had the potential to be the innovator in this genre because it added the connection model to a personal page. What held Classmates back — and still holds them back today — is that they charge a subscription fee for the most useful features, while MySpace and Facebook have always been ad-supported, free to the user.

LinkedIn is a social networking website designed for business associates. And there are a myriad of sites for romantic encounters, such as eHarmony and Match.com.

MySpace rose to popularity as a place for independent musicians to showcase their talent. Eventually it became popular with high school students and twenty-somethings, which drove its membership to monumental proportions.

In the past, MySpace has been criticized for its lack of concern with privacy of its younger users because it allows children as young as 14, who are not sufficiently aware of security concerns, to create their own online profiles. The issue is that the profile questionnaire, while voluntary, asked questions like name, age, birthday, school, grade, extracurricular activities, best friends, etc. That much personal information makes it relatively easy for anyone of interest to find a person’s full name, birthdate, home address, and phone number.

MySpace’s interface, which allows users to change the background theme, add music and graphics, and generally individualize the look of the page, was once considered an advantage over other personal pages. However, many analysts today find that the layers of content, advertising, and superfluous graphics make many of the MySpace pages virtually unreadable.

Facebook was originally designed as a place for college students to network with each other, and they required all users to register with a college email address. In 2006 they abandoned that requirement and opened the site to everyone. By 2008, Facebook had overtaken MySpace with a reputation as a more serious service for adults and professionals. By 2009, Facebook’s growth and popularity had shifted away from college students to adults who are interested in keeping connected with their friends and family.

Bebo is the newest of the big three social networking sites, having been launched in 2005. It is currently more popular in Europe and other parts of the world than it is in the US.

Friendster was one of the first popular social networking sites, having been launched in 2002. Its history illustrates the fickle nature of social sites and the people they attract. Friendster’s popularity rose so quickly that at one time, Google offered to purchase the website for an exorbitant amount of cash. A year later Friendster’s popularity was overtaken by MySpace and its value has declined ever since. It is currently more popular in Asia and other parts of the world than it is in the US.

Most of the popular social networking sites are free to join and supported by advertising, although some offer premium services on a subscription basis. The difficulty with all of them is the fact that, as a member of a particular website, you can only connect with others on that website. So when a new website comes on the scene, and your friends start migrating to the new site, you have to migrate with them or be left out. As a result, many users abandon one website over another, creating a discrepancy in statistics for users vs active users.

Like all social networking sites, in order to be useful, everyone has to be a member of the same service. Using additional software, however, it is possible to aggregate feeds from different services. Nevertheless, there is always competition among the websites and the web services to attract and keep the most users.

There are other types of websites which are geared toward specific activities, but which have some social networking features. Twitter is a micro-blogging service that can send short messages to thousands of people at once. Flickr and Photobucket are photo-sharing sites where you can upload your own photos and share them publicly or within your circle of friends, who must also have an account. Digg describes itself as a social news site, where users submit links to stories and then other users vote on them and share them with their friends. YouTube is a video-sharing site where you can upload videos and share them with your circle of friends and family. All of these sites depend on user-generated content.

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