Social networks are among the hottest technologies in 2008, but one of the early pioneers is only a distant memory. Friendster is one the first social networks and in it’s day it was the hottest thing since sliced bread. But as social networking matured and more services come online, Friendster failed to keep up and faded into insignificance. Part of the problem for Friendster was the fact that it was a general purpose social network in the midst of ever more niche social networks. MySpace focused on music, LinkedIn on business professionals. Now with Ning, individuals can create their own social network on any topic they wish. Facebook could be called an exception to this rule as it is a general purpose network, but they began life and created momentum as a focused social network for the college crowd. Facebook as also been very good at aggressively innovating their platform, especially with the addition of Facebook Applications.
Something similar is happening in the virtual world space. Second Life has been the dominating leader up to now, but the bloom may be coming off the rose. There is lots of competition in the virtual world space and much of it is of the niche variety. Disney purchased Club Penguin. Webkinz is incredibly hot, and now Nickelodeon is experimenting with a virtual world. There are also virtual world platform companies that will allow anyone to create their own virtual world. Sound familiar? Second Life is the general purpose virtual world with no real focus. It also seems to have lived out its 15 minutes of fame. I think if Second Life doesn’t do something dramatic they will end up like Friendster, an innovator that became insignificant.