. . . Tuesday May 31, 2005

Multiple Personalities

The megaportals are trying to figure out a way to replicate and surpass the social networking prowess of the massively trafficked MySpace.

The big portals intend to put MySpace in its place well before it can threaten them. Yahoo, which has 112 million registered users, is testing a social-networking site called Yahoo! 360 that it plans to launch this fall. Microsoft’s MSN launched a similar site, dubbed Spaces, in April — and signed up 10 million users in a matter of weeks.

“MySpace is fascinating,” says Microsoft’s Blake Irving, corporate vice-president for MSN communications and member platform. But he thinks MSN has tremendous advantages: It already has 88 million registered users, and it will offer them e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking all in one place. “I think people will want one digital profile that says: ‘This is my digital self,’” says Irving.

I’m (of course) not an MSN user, but I have been impressed by Yahoo’s ability to tie together their various social-ish offerings in the 360 world. But I don’t quite agree with this idea of a single digital self.

I think what we’ll see over the next year or so is that the everything to everyone social networks will slowly fade away (although their tools and tricks will live on) as users continue to migrate towards more narrow vertical networks.

Maybe I need some psychopharmaceuticals, but I see myself as having multiple digital personalities and I don’t feel at all compelled to bring them together. So while Friendster dies a slow death, social networks with a specific and narrow purpose will live on and thrive in the coming months.

Social networking with a purpose…

Social bookmarking sites like Delicious, visual bookmarking tools like Wists, microcommunities like 43 Things, narrow topic and behavior based networks like RoJo … These are the sites to watch. Will they all succeed? Who knows? And who really knows what success means in this second boom. But these are the models to check out moving forward (and there will soon be two other stellar examples offered by people who live under my roof – and I’m not talking about my cat, Mister Winters, after all, that network has already been built).

Vertical social networking sound like a crazy trend? Someone get me the latest revenue numbers from EHarmony…

Concentration is important!