According to Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service, MySpace continued to dominate the social networking category in April 2007, with 79.7 percent of category visits. Following MySpace was Facebook with 11.47 percent of visits and Bebo with 1.28 percent of category visits. However, Bebo is now the fastest growing social network. US Visits to MySpace increased by 70 percent from April 2006 to April 2007, while visits to Facebook were up 126 percent and visits to Bebo up 184 percent in that period.
MySpace as you can see is still the powerhouse in social networking. One in four visits (24.9 percent of upstream clicks) to the 19 other top social networking sites came directly from MySpace in April 2007, demonstrating the dominance of MySpace and indicating that many users maintain more than one social network. In April 2007, Facebook accounted for 2.85 percent of the upstream traffic to its 19 competitors, an increase of 185 percent compared to September 2006.
While these “regular” social networking sites are established phenomenon, social gaming with consoles like Xbox Live and Nintendo Wii and virtual worlds like Second Life, Habbo and Stardoll are just getting into mainstream consciousness and the model to achive MySpace-like popularity is still experimentation.
Sulake’s Teemu Huuhtanen joined Stardoll’s Matthew Palmer on a panel with Acclaim CEO Howard Marks and Nokia Web/Social Media Integration Manager Karl Long to discuss where the business is going. They seemed to agree on that nobody has all the answers yet.
“We let the users tell us what they want, all we do is to create a great sandbox for them to play in”, said Acclaim CEO Howard Marks.
“The key is to get a few users that are really active and invest a lot of time in building a social network and invite their friends”, said Teemu Huuhtanen, Presiden, N.A. Sulake (Habbo hotel).
The reason that it has taken so long for social networking to take off in the gaming world is that problem of “walled gardens” in these markets in the US which means that there are high barriers to entry for developers if games for the console games and to get on the mobile platforms controlled by the major carriers.
Sprint Nextel’s GM of Games Joe Ariganello tackled the multi-format possibilities of casual games with Microsoft Casual Games’ Studio Manager Chris Early, and Vivendi’s Sierra Online President Ed Zobrist.
They agreed that casual gaming is one area in which women are as interested in participating and given social media’s appeal for both men and woman, the need for sites to differentiate their products and take a multi-platform approach, is great.
Mark Friedler, Publisher/Founder of GameDaily, who moderated the first panel, suggested that consoles might be a thing of the past soon, leaving room for open platforms that can be played on any platform that is connected to the Internet.
“It is the going to be something like Xbox Live or PS3, but browser-based like MySpace so that it can be accessed by anyone. I don’t think Sony is going to invest in a PS4. Five years from now, all you need is the processing power of a PS3, but not the actual branded consoles with closed ecosystems”, Friedler explained to DMW after the panel was over.