This is exactly my question. Somehow I do not understand the current value of most of the social networks that exist today. Some of them have potential but I do not believe that the majority of them have it. We see Bebo, it cost a fortune to AOL but I personally see it as “it’s time is passing” and there is a lot to be done there. The majority of its users are under 18 and people are joining (and sticking with) other social networks instead. Their retention level does not seem great at all and they are not targeting well. Of course it can bring AOL up and back to the game but it is surely a huge challenge for the talented people working in both companies.
I can’t write a post on social networks without mentioning Facebook. It’s potential is enormous and well recognized by everyone. It is said that it can possibly change the web but it’s value… isn’t it overpriced? As mentioned, they can contribute to the evolution of the web and, in the future, be worth the money that they are valued now or even more, but the risk is still high and they need to deliver more that they have done till today. We have seen Social networks coming and going. All of us have joined a few (or several) but just a bunch of these networks stick around in our daily routine for a long time. The issue is: Can they retain users/clients on the long run? I think long term retention is still not proven/achieved by Facebook. They have brilliant minds working for them and they know the challenge that they face to keep their userbase (active) and avoid being just ‘the flavour of the year’. Personally I believe that they will be able to take the next step and bring more value to the web.
Of course I can be wrong because I have no data what so ever to back up what I wrote above (just what I read online) about these two social networks. It is my general impression that they are more focused on user adoption than on user retention and that is the main reason that I say that their future is not yet defined.
By the way, my disclaimer applies here and always. All that is written here it is my opinion alone and I have not discussed it before this post with anyone.
PS – It is interesting to check the wikipedia entry on list of social networks. Here we can see a bit what can we expect a social network to be in the future. Can you find a pattern here? Yes, we see that the majority of them are country or culture targeted and lately they are becoming subject related as wel. Is this the future?