Facebook is quickly becoming the biggest social networking site worldwide with 500 million active users. However, since Facebook’s inception there have been numerous networking sites that have cornered local markets in different parts of the world. These sites slow down the social networking giant’s attempt at a global monopoly.
Here’s a rundown of Facebook’s competition around the world.
Orkut – was Google’s answer to Friendster back in 2004. It was initially an invitation-only platform but has since grown out of that. Orkut has gained massive popularity with Brazilians who make up 50.6% of the 52 million active users. It is currently number one in Brazil but has been censored in Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The site seems to have very little growth in other market areas, which some critics attribute to the large Brazilian presence on the site choosing to communicate primarily in Portuguese.
Qzone – is a Chinese networking site developed in 2005. As of 2010, there were 480 million users registered on the site. Qzone allows members to publish photos and blog posts, listen to music and access a range of different services all from a fully customizable profile – for a price.
Renren – Founded in 2005, this social network is popular with Chinese students and boasts of 31 million active users. In most respects, it is similar to Facebook with the exception that the Chinese Government heavily censors it. Recently, Renren filed for a public offering in the New York Stock Exchange.
Mixi – currently holds an 80% share of the social networking market inJapan. The site was started in February 2004 and currently has 10 million members. As of date, membership is limited to those residing in Japan, as a valid Japanese telephone number is required during registration. Mixi also offers “Celebrity Accounts” whereby the account holder is allowed to surpass the 1000-friends limit. “Mixi tsukare” has recently been coined as a label for the psychological fatigue users experience as they become tired of the site before deciding to terminate their account altogether.
Cyworld – is a South Korean social networking site launched in 1996, offering users avatars and mini-rooms for a Sims-like experience. The site generates revenue by selling a virtual currency called “dotori”, which is then used to purchase virtual goods to personalise the users’ mini-rooms and to customise their avatars.
Cloob – is an Iranian social networking site developed to fill the gap left by networking sites blocked by the Iranian government. It currently has an invite-only registration system. The site offers an email service, discussion forums, photo albums, live messaging, blogs, jobs and resume database as well as offering online shops and adopting a virtual currency called “coroob”. Cloob is subject to censorship by the Iranian government and has been shutdown on two occasions, forcing them to remove “illegal and controversial content” to re-instate access.
Xing – was called the Open Business Connection up until 2006. It was conceived and developed in Germany as a business-networking platform, offering profiles, discussion forums and event co-ordination. It has since developed to be the primary network for professionals in German speaking nations. Xing sets itself apart from its American and other European counter parts by providing an Ambassador Program. The Ambassadors hold offline events in each city or region whereby they promote social networking as a business tool as well as providing members with the opportunity to meet each other and share business ideas.
studiVZ – is a social networking site aimed at students in German speaking countries. As of 2009, the site has since entered a steady state of decline in membership. StudiVZ borrowed heavily from Facebook’s design. It was also plagued with numerous criticisms on the system and scandals, which culminated in StudiVZ paying an undisclosed amount to Facebook following an intellectual property lawsuit accusation.
Hyves – is currently the most popular networking site in the Netherlands. It was founded in 2004 and currently has about 10 million registered accounts. The site is like any standard social networking site and offers free membership for a basic account. They also offer the option to upgrade to a paid Gold membership, which gives access to more features and additional photo uploading space. In 2006, it was revealed that the Dutch police are using Hyves to investigate possible suspects. By 2010, every politician from every Dutch political party had an account on the site; giving Hyves the opportunity to host the world’s first chat-debate between political leaders on a social networking site.
Skyrock – the networking site began its life in 2002 as a blogging site. However, it has since turned itself into a networking site offering users free web space for their blogs as well as standard features. The platform has significantly high penetration rates in France. Unsurprisingly, attempts have been made to associate Skyrock with the breakout of the Paris Riots in 2005.
Tuenti – is a Spanish based invitation-only social networking site, listing 9.2 million users. Unlike other networking websites, Tuenti has opted out of banner and “obtrusive” advertising. Recently, it has been involved in controversy, with two youngsters being fined by the courts for creating a fake profile using another girl’s name to ridicule her. The incident eventually led to girl suffering from psychological problems.
VKontakte – is a Russian social networking site launched in 2006. It has been known as a “Facebook clone” owing to the site’s similarities with Facebook. As of February 2011, it has 100 million registered users and membership remains by invitation only. One significant difference from other networking sites: no search engines are linked to VKontakte pages unless a user posts external links to their pages on third party websites. However, the site is constantly plagued by security issues with personal accounts being hacked to spread spam and viruses. A significant feature that brings in new members is the opportunity to watch and download thousands of pirated copies of foreign and domestic movies dubbed in Russian.
Odnoklassniki – is very similar to Friends Re-united and Classmates.com. Odnoklassniki is another Russian networking created in 2006 by Albert Popkov. In 2008, Popkov, founders and key stakeholders sold controlling interest to Digital Sky technologies. Following the recent launch of a Music section on the site, representatives of the social network are currently in talks to copyright holders regarding providing music by a subscription service to its members.
Draugiem – Is a social networking site launched in 2004 to cater to the Latvian market, with approximately 2.6 million registered users.