The Social Networking World

[Via Greg Verdino] Le Monde printed a cool map a few weeks back covering the social networking world.

The map isn't quite perfect. While there's some data to support the idea that Bebo are the largest network in the UK, there's almost no chance they're bigger than MySpace across all of Europe; our 2007 data has MySpace a clear #1 in Western Europe with Facebook and Bebo fighting it out for #2. Also, Skyblog (listed as #1 in France and #3 in Europe) and LiveJournal (listed as #1 in Russia) aren't social networks, they're blogging sites. (Yes, it's getting harder to tell the difference between those two categories. But even with Skyblog's addition of some networking features last year, these two sites are still, clearly, first and foremost about blogging.) Finally, I'd have thought some of the countries that aren't labeled would've been pretty easy to fill in with a current leader -- among others, it seems clear that StudiVZ is #1 in Germany, and that Facebook is #1 in Sweden.

But despite these flaws, this map is a very useful reminder that social networking is still a relatively fragmented market. English-speaking media types have been completely fixated on Facebook for the last year, forgetting both that MySpace is still bigger globally, and that Facebook until recently had almost no presence outside the English-speaking world. Friendster and Orkut are widely described as also-rans in social networking, despite the fact that they're each the #1 network in a crucial developing market (Asia and Latin America, respectively). And I guarantee that not a single person who looks at that map will have already heard of every network mentioned. (Had you ever heard of Mixi, or Metroflog, or Yonja?)

The point is, it's still early days yet in social networking, and there are still no guaranteed winners and losers. As our Web Globalization analyst Zia just said to me -- I wonder what this map will look like five years from now?