Back in March I wrote that Reuter’s had announced plans to develop a corporate version of MySpace for people who work in finance. I said at the time that we might shortly see a rash of ‘grown-up’ uses of Web 2.0-style social networking. This does seem to be happening, and it looks like Facebook is stealing a march.
One of the interesting things about Facebook is that, according to Mark Zuckerberg, its co-founder (see video), its fastest growing segment is the 25+ age group. Facebook seems to be attracting an older, professional user and, indeed, there has been a slew of articles in the press over the last couple of weeks lauding the professional uses of Facebook, with the Observer calling it the current “craze du jour”. Why is this happening?
Firstly, and perhaps ironically, MySpace, which is owned by media giant News International, seems to have dropped the ball with regard to getting journalists to join and use the service. Journalists write technology stories, which readers follow up.
Facebook, for example, hosts the National Union of Journalists, and the BBC’s Facebook work group has over 13,000 members (and only employees with a BBC email address can join). Facebook claims it has over 500 groups for “journalism” although the vast majority are either student journo class groups or the less than serious, “Blondes for better journalism” (47 members), for example. A quick search of MySpace groups using the same term gave me 45 results and, as far as I can see, none (please correct me if I’ve missed something) are serious, professional networks.
Secondly, there has been a huge interest in the potential for innovation that is provided now that Facebook allows third-party programmers to add their own widgets through its Platform development system. These small applications can be made available to any user on Facebook and can even be revenue generating—what The Register calls a “social networking operating system”. High profile and media oriented developers of such widgets include Forbes and the Washington Post. Such a move is in contrast to MySpace, which has been reluctant to allow completely open access to third-party developers through their service.
But Rupert is aware. The Wall Street Journal reports that when asked whether newspaper readers (who tend to be older) were going to MySpace he replied: “I wish they were. They’re all going to Facebook at the moment”. No doubt there will be an impressive response shortly.