Justin Timberlake is bringing something back, and while it’s not a Grammy Award-winning song from 2007, it’s something equally reminiscent of that same year. As Ashton Kutcher has been busy investing in new startups like Zaarly, Hipmunk, Airbnb and Square, Justin Timberlake is hoping to leverage his fame (and fortune) to bring back one of the predecessors of social networking; MySpace. Not to be left in the dust, other social networks, including Friendster, Delicious, LiveJournal and Google+ are also staging a comeback. With the exception of Google+, many of these networks have been around for almost a decade. Here’s a look at why these 5 social networks are ready to call it a comeback.
MySpace was a social network long before the phrase “social network” was a household term. In fact, it has been recognized as a pioneer in social media – yet as Facebook and other niche sites grew in popularity, user interest began to wane. News Corporation bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005, and then ownership changed hands again last year when Tim and Chris Vanderhook – along with Justin Timberlake – bought the site for $35 million. According to the New York Times, only about 33 million users were using the site each month at the time – and it was still bleeding users.
Now, however, the site has over one million new users. As cited in the New York Times, Chris Vanderhook says, “We went from zero signups per day to 40,000.” This is largely as a result in a change in focus; the MySpace is predominately a place to discover new music and media with its library of 42 million tracks and new a deal with Panasonic for MySpace TV, which will allow users to share and commenting on music videos and TV shows. It’s definitely not the MySpace you used to know – but that’s probably a good thing. We never did like those pictures of you in your bathroom mirror.
If you used MySpace, you may have also used Friendster – another social network formed early in the millenium. In Fact, Friendster was developed long before MySpace, founded in 2002 by Jonathan Abrams and Ross MacKinnon. It was an evolution of the chatroom many were familiar with from the early days of AOL (the kind that came on a CD, not the kind that now owns sites like TechCrunch), and was an easy way to meet new people – especially if you were looking for a date. A decade later, Friendster resembles nothing of its early days, but has shifted into social gaming, capitalizing on the success of the popularity like Zynga’s Farmville. Like MySpace, don’t expect Friendster to resemble anything like its former self. The BBC reports that “90% of its entire traffic comes from from Asia” – and according to the BBC, Friendster intends on capitalizing on this by designing all the games to have a “distinctly Asian feel – with visuals inspired by Japanese anime and a nod to role-playing genres.”
If you missed the news last year, Delicious – a popular site which allowed users to share and find bookmarks of interesting websites – was sold by Yahoo to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. After the purchase by Hurley and Chen, Delicious underwent a massive site redesign with new features, including Stacks, which allows users to take bookmarks and organize them into your own categories. Stacks are visually organized bookmarks, drawing upon images from a site bookmarked to help you identify your bookmarks faster. If this sounds like Pinterest, Delicious is strikingly similar. In this new mainstream era of social bookmarking, the new features and design of Delicious couldn’t be at a better time – especially considering the limitations of other similar services (including Pinterest.)
Even before MySpace and before Friendster, LiveJournal was yet another social network that was popular amongst the early-adopters of new media, and like today’s most popular social network, Facebook, it too was also developed in a dorm room. (In fact, just down the hall from my own dorm room on the University of Washington campus, though a few years prior.) LiveJournal has actually maintained steady growth since its early days, now boasting 10 million monthly uniques, 30 million monthly visitors, and 170 million pageviews in the United States. Users include George R.R. Martin, the author behind hit HBO show Game Of Thrones, and the most popular community blog, Oh No They Didn’t, now an extremely well-known celebrity gossip blog, is also one of the oldest communities on the network.
According to Fast Company, “LiveJournal’s planning a major 2012 push based around attracting new users to community sites.” These community sites will offer detailed metrics and statistics on user activity. Unlike MySpace and Friendster, LiveJournal still (yet unfortunately) looks the same – but its focus on building niche communities may be just what it needs to make a comeback – especially in the shadows of the other uber-popular, all-inclusive, impersonal social networks.
Google+ launched with much fanfare in the summer of 2011, only to be curiously quiet about its growth. Recently, Larry Page announced on the January 19th earnings call that there are over 90M Google+ users. Additionally, he said that “engagement on Google+ is also growing tremendously Google+ users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.” Keep in mind, though, that those percentage of users are Google users – not necessarily Google+ users. With the availability of brand pages and the explosion in growth – demonstrated with the number of users Google+ now has – Google’s new network could quickly turn around after starting to fizzle after its initial launch.
What social networks do you think will make a comeback in 2012? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.