Here are some facts:
- Facebook is about to hit one billion users. That’s more than India. That’s three Americas.
- MySpace was recently sold out for $35 million. Facebook is said to have a $100 billion IPO next year.
- Google has launched their second attempt at a social networking tool. Their first attempt, arguably a combination of Google Wave and Google Buzz, has been looked on as a mere hobby for the firm. Even Schmidt agrees: “[We missed on] the friend thing.”
- Twitter has one of the most stable services in comparison to Facebook, which now has deep integration with iOS 5.
What makes Twitter successful? Twitter has engaged in key partnerships with numerous news organizations and technology firms. The partnership with Apple is just one of the many ways the service has propagated to the masses like wildfire. The once small 2005 startup now has well over a million users and has just as many tweets posted a day. While these figures are easily dwarfed by Facebook and Google, the company also has an almost stubbornly open API which allows any company to use Twitter in flexible, useful ways. In fact, someone could easily start a Twitter service called Flitter and port all the tweets from Twitter into Flitter. With these partnerships and open API, Twitter has catapulted its success and turned a profit, at least.
Of course, Flitter will never come to existence because, “Why bother?” But, don’t you ask the same question when it comes to Facebook? With Facebook, you can share everything you would want with everyone who you want. All of your friends are on it because all of their friends are on it. The strong first-mover advantage that the company has sustained makes it almost laughable for anyone to try and emulate with their own social networking tool.
Google+ is not what the media is claiming to be the “Facebook competitor”. This is a losing strategy. Google+ allows people to manage relationships among groups of people. Some of your friends are from school and some are from work. These groups are treated differently in real life, so they should be treated differently on the web too. While Facebook has this functionality with Groups or Lists, the UI has a lot to be desired and begs for something simpler. If anything, Google+ is attacking Skype with “Hangouts” — click on one of your groups and start a chat with all of them, effortlessly. Because you have the user-base built up via friends on Gmail, they do not require another service to engage in a group video chat.
MySpace is an example of a paradigm shift in thoughts about web content. No one desires to visit a site that is cluttered, custom-designed by the users and riddled with spam and viruses. While there is a small contingency of people who are adamant about open-sourcing, there is an even larger mass of people who prefer to be told what they want. Facebook closed off CSS editing, made people fill in some blanks, and called it a day. The “wall” was not even in the initial release. Even Apple’s App Store is a closed system integrated with iOS devices, but it is the most successful marketplace in the industry, with more users and active credit cards than Amazon.
In looking at all three services aside Facebook, they all have largely varying purposes. None of them quite emulate Facebook, and all of them have had different results. Having an answer to Facebook is a lost cause — having a product that people can’t live without is the winning strategy. This is why Twitter is still around, Google will always exist (because of Search) and MySpace is at the beginning of the end.