May 6, 2009|
While Facebook dominates U.S. social networking, similar international platforms are keeping a global monopoly on virtual social life out of reach for the California-based company.
Last year, Facebook sued German social network StudiVZ for violating copyright laws, mimicking its logo, features and service, according to German website, The Local. The two companies are currently battling out of court, but will begin trial in July if an agreement isn’t met.
Despite Facebook’s cries that the StudiVZ stole its design and even hacked into its coding, ReadWriteWeb reports that before all of this chaos, Facebook was actually trying to acquire the social network, which has 5.5 million members in German speaking countries, compared to Facebook’s 2.2 million in the same areas.
Also in the summer of last year, Facebook launched translations of its site in 55 different languages, hoping to increase its spread. Since then, international attention for the giant has increased, but heavy competitors, backed by major U.S. companies, are not ready to step out of the way.
Bebo.com, which is an acronym for “Blog Early, Blog Often” is AOL People Network’s attempt to grab a slice of the social media market, and has become extremely poplar in the United Kingdom and Australia.
So far, Bebo proves to be the most effective aggregator network in use. Bebo’s “Lifestream” pulls your friends and contacts’ updates from Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and Delicious, with more in development. Bebo’s also beating Facebook in the mobile race, allowing users to be able to update their pages and send and receive SMS updates and alerts.
Leading the Latin American markets are Orkut.com and Hi5.com. Orkut, the top social networking site in Brazil, according to SocialNetworkingWatch.com, is a Google-owned site aiming to integrate Google’s news and e-mail functions into a social networking platform. Although it hasn’t been able to keep up with Facebook in the U.S., the site is gaining speed here, and growing rapidly in South America and India.
Hi5 is attempting to cash in on the ground lost by MySpace when they overloaded users with entertainment profiles and brand itself as the best-in-class “Social Entertainment Site.” The site has over 62 million unique visitors and month and provides service in over more than 50 languages. The site is partnering with PlaySpan Marketplace and launching a Micropayments plan for Virtual Goods that will allow users to buy music, movies games and books online through their profiles.
Perhaps the most difficult market for Facebook to break is the ever-growing Asian social networking market, simply due to the high level of government web control and company control over users profiles. China’s largest social network, Xiaonei, and Japan’s, Mixi, both forbid applications from third-party users.
On Mixi, only users over 18 are allowed to join, and you must be invited by another user in order to join. Even with all their restrictions, both social networks seem too powerful for Facebook to challenge thus far.
If Facebook truly wants to go global, developers will need to expand their partnerships or acquisitions of international sites in order to tap into each country’s unique social networking needs.It will be interesting to see how the company expands its brand without losing its core