It was 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg started asking his fellowHarvardUniversitystudents to try out his new idea known as “the facebook.” The online community allowed his peers to create personal profiles, search for profiles and invite others from the university to join. It was a smashing success almost immediately. In 2006, Facebook opened its virtual doors to anyone with a registered e-mail address.
Not content to rest upon his accomplishments, Zuckerberg continued to push for new features. One of the most revolutionary was creating an application programming interface (API) for third-party developers. Suddenly, programmers could design applications that could tap into Facebook’s massive population. Applications range from simple games and diversions to clever marketing campaigns.
In short: Facebook has become the most visited social networking site in the world, receiving more than 10 million unique visitors than MySpace in January 2009, making it the No. 1 social networking site on our list.
Part Web site, part Web service – Twitter is an online environment where users can create profiles, fill them with information and then build a network of people they “follow” (and a band of others who follow them).
Twitter sends messages between users via the Short Message Service (SMS), better known as text messaging. Members send their texts through Twitter to those they allow to follow them. The messages, called Tweets, are super short: only 140 charters or shorter (there are technically 160 characters for use, but the first 20 are there to make room for user names in messages.). The new phenomenon is called microblogging and it’s incredibly popular.
All sorts of famous people are on Twitter. If you sign up for an account, you can follow astronauts, scientists, athletes, musicians, actors and writers. Or you can ignore the celebrities and focus on your friends.
LinkedIn is a social networking site designed for professionals. It boasts a membership of more than 35 million people and claims that executives from every Fortune 500 company has member profiles on the site. The profiles focus on members’ professional experience and skills.
The site also supports activities beyond networking with potential employers, employees or clients. For example, LinkedIn provides a platform that allows members to collaborate on projects — a virtual meeting room of sorts.
As the fastest-growing social networking site in the world for the first half of 2008, Hi5 is the largest site of its kind that you may have never heard of. The site grew 78 percent in the first half of 2008 alone.
Based inSan Francisco, Hi5 launched in 2003 and was turning a profit by 2004. By 2005, the site had 10 million members. While sites like Facebook and MySpace began to dominate theU.S.social networking scene, Hi5 began to look at other opportunities internationally.
In 2006, it launched a Spanish version of the site to great success. Versions of the site in other languages soon followed. This new focus paid off. Hi5 became the most popular social networking site inMexicoand many Latin American countries. Like many other social networking sites, members create profiles, share photos, play games and post messages.
Orkut is an online social network owned by Google. Originally based inCalifornia, the site now callsBrazilhome. While 17 percent of its traffic is from theUnited States, it never really took off in theU.S.
But Brazilians adopted the site as their preferred online social network — more than 50 percent of all traffic to Orkut comes fromBrazil. According to the analytics firm comScore, more than 20 million Brazilians visited Orkut in September 2008, making it the most popular Web site inBrazil. In that same month, only 893,000 Brazilians visited MySpace.
Orkut is also popular inIndia, which supplies another 17 percent of the site’s traffic. While it may never gain a firm standing in theUnited States, it’s still a success story.