Social networking – How long is the tail?

The first social networking site started 13 years back. It was called SixDegrees. It shut shop in 2000 but what it left behind is a revolution. Facebook and Twitter are now leading it. There are other players like Hi5, Myspace, Xing and Orkut. Did I mention that we used to have Geocities which was put to bed by Yahoo? With all these social networking sites why do we need another site?

But they are too generic.

That is when niche starts up. The same thing happened with social networking. A few sites came up where anybody and their mother can sign up. Suddenly people found that it is too crowded and they need somewhere else to belong. Some place where they can be with people more like them… the so called club. 

That gave rise to country or language-specific social networking sites. Baidu Space in China, VKontakte in Russia, Mixi of Japan and Cyworld of South Korea are the best examples. BharatStudent is one such site for Indians. But India embraced Orkut, later Facebook and now Twitter for their social networking needs.

Generic is fine. Language specific is fine. What next?  Professional networking sites is the next in line and LinkedIn lead  the pack. Now not even professional networking sites like LinkedIn ill do. What we need is a professional networking site for each profession.

Jivisha is the latest entrant in this scene. It’s a networking site for doctors. Lagipadi was another networking site launched exclusively for media professionals.  The USP for this site is for the media professionals to get together and share stuff in their lingo. I see the need for similar sites for teachers, actors, politicians etc…

This is all good stuff. Every niche has its networking site and the tail gets longer by the day. But how long will the tail be? How many more niches will we see? For starters, social networking follows a cycle. SixDegrees and GeoCities showed the way and went bust. Now, Myspace and Orkut are losing ground to Facebook. And Twitter is eating Facebook’s lunch. Google Buzz, which is a cross between Facebook and Twitter, is sorting its privacy issues but with few tweaks is all set to take on TwitBook.

As TechDirt points out, social networking sites are like nightclubs.

“Launch, get hot, go bust in 2-3 years, and then another sets up in the same place.” (TechDirt)

In the middle of these, do we need niche networking sites? And how sustainable are they?

PS : What would the nightclub analogy be for a niche site? Gentleman’s club?