MyYearbook considers MySpace to be their #1 competitor because of their penetration of the high school aged market. This is an interesting space because it is essentially the youngest age possible to be a member of a social network. It is hard to imagine a social network online for sub-12 year olds without encountering parental or legal resistance. That said, certainly MySpace's dominance of the 12 year old to 16 year old market rests on loose soil that is could be blown away by a gust of wind. As you know, I do not see social network users as being as fickle as the media perceives. Theoretically, capturing a significant user base at the earliest possible age is certainly an approach that could shake up the social networking order. Given that clear barriers to entry in this space have not been established, it is too early to declare this game over for any of the players. I expect services latched onto social networks will, sooner or later, rapidly expand with features beyond basic video streaming, picture sharing and blogging. Social networks are just starting to tap their potential. Theoretically, if a web site could capture every 12 year old to join their service, then with each passing year, that service would maintain those users as they age and gain the new crop of 12 year olds. In that sense, MyYearbook has the right approach: figure out what features are relevant and fun for young people, and keep doing that until you offer such a compelling service that your target audience flocks to your website. As you can see from the screen shot, while MyYearbook has some innovative features, the technology edge of MyYearbook over MySpace is a fraction of the edge MySpace had over Friendster, which is what enabled MySpace's rapid growth.
What is driving the growth of new social networks? Do you get millions of new users through small innovation or leapfrog innovation? Given that many social networking service have simply been a rehash of the original Friendster model, we have not seen significant innovation other than seeing services apply the same model to different niches (beautiful people, rich people, old people, young people, single people and on). Geoff's credentials prove he is very intelligent, so if MyYearbook's approach of leveraging significantly more features to gain users does not work, it will not be for lack of brainpower. It would simply be because MyYearbook was simply over-matched in stacking up against social network heavyweights. For now, it is too early to declare a winner. As a comparison, the social networking space now is like the search engine space in 1998: we saw a couple years of significant VC investment and a proliferation of search engines (think NewHoo, meta searchers galore, Infoseek, Lycos, Excite, and dozens more), and only by the tail end of that year did Google really start to pick up steam. My point: I think there is still room for a Google of social networking to emerge. It is too early, and much strategy is left to be played out. Will it be Jambo, Meetro, MyYearbook, Doostang, or something else? For Yahoo, it survived by leveraging a huge user base for Yahoo Mail, whereas Lycos and Excite were without such stickiness. Perhaps MySpace's rumored move to add free webmail is an attempt to stave off a similar user exodus. Stay tuned.