Technologies come and go on the Internet with surprising speed. Currently, MySpace and Facebook visits combined account for over 65 percent of all visits to social networking sites. Facebook by itself accounts for more than 6 percent of all Internet visits in the United States. While Facebook continues to grow, as a Internet trends analyst and futurist, I'm often asked, "What's next in the online networking space?"
According to the Experian Hitwise database of online usage of more than 10 million Internet users in the United States, there are more than 5,580 social networks beyond top sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The main social networks, much like the main square in town, are general online meeting places. But Internet users are beginning to demand online networks that cater to specific age groups and interests. The explosion of niche networks is in full swing, so there is a good chance that a network exists that caters to your specific interest.
Here are some sites you should consider participating in if you want to see the future of social networking:
Operating since 2004, Yelp.com allows users to review restaurants, bars, doctors, dentists, even Yelp.com itself. While Yelp.com was initially popular in major cities such as San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, its influence has spread throughout the United States. Interested in exploring a new restaurant in your neighborhood? Yelp.com reviewers can steer you toward a new venue, and other consumers' reviews can even suggest what to order. After returning from dinner, join the revolution and post your own review.
Are you a music fan? Do you obsess over the latest celebrity gossip? Then check out sites like BuzzNet.com, a social network built around music and your favorite recording artists. Sites like TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com have become the most popular sites for the celebrity obsessed, but Zimbio, a user-created magazine covering a variety of topics, has been gaining recently in popularity.
Support and Conversation
Perhaps you're looking for deeper conversations, something way beyond the 140-character limit of Twitter or short status updates in your Facebook profile. Social networks like Gather.com cater to those craving deeper conversations and intellectual discourse. Overcome with questions and worries as a new mom? Sites like Cafe Mom and Momversation provide a place to share information.
There are also a variety of new networks that seek to help solve specific issues. One of my favorites is FixYa.com, a social network devoted to helping you find a solution to fixing your car, computer, toaster oven or just about any other piece of equipment. If you have a problem finding a menu item on your new digital camera, a quick search or posting on FixYa.com will answer your questions.
Social networks have started one of the most remarkable evolutions in our online lives. As companies find new ways to create networks that cater to our needs in interests, the networks of today are just the beginning in finding ways to connect and share.
Bill Tancer is an Internet trend analyst, columnist and author of the New York Times best-seller Click: What Millions Do Online and Why It Matters.