Analyst Report: Second Quarter 2009 In Review: NewNet

Analysis

Social networking and the real-time web are changing the framework of how information on the Internet is consumed. The ability to share and disperse information through social platforms and do it using real-time tools is shifting the focus of content from “historical” news to real-time events. Social networking and the real-time web are co-developing as the next generation Internet experience and will impact all those who have a business tied to the Internet.

The growth in social networking usage has been incredible; Facebook, with the largest user population, reached 2 million users in the second quarter. While the various social network companies are not exactly in competition with one another, the pattern has been that as one network rises, others suffer.

Such was the case with Friendster as MySpace gained notoriety. Now MySpace is suffering difficult times, marked by a string of negative news in the second quarter, as Facebook ascended. But even Facebook now fears that it is in jeopardy as up-and-coming Twitter has become the leading edge of the real-time web.

With Twitter capturing all the media attention and reporting strong usage growth, Facebook tried in the second quarter to incorporate several Twitter-like components into its site. Unfortunately, in trying to emulate Twitter’s success, Facebook may be worsening its situation. While similar in nature, not all social networking sites are created equal, and users apparently like it that way. A social network user is likely looking for a different experience on Facebook than on Twitter. As Facebook incorporated these new elements, feedback from its community of users was fairly negative, as the changes reduced the intimacy that characterized Facebook’s user experience.

The rise of social networks is also significantly impacting Google. With the shift to the real-time web, Google, the king of search, is trying to determine how it can better incorporate real-time search into its more traditional search. Google’s type of search can be classified as the “Then Web,” an archival, organized search of historical data. Social networks, however, enable the “Now Web,” searching and accessing current events and dialogues in a more casual manner but that is personal to the user’s interests.

Several new search engines launched in the second quarter put a new spin on search.  Microsoft’s Bing and Wolfram Alpha.  Bing differentiates from the growing world of search with a built-in decision engine to help users find information better the regular search engines.  Wolfram Alpha also offers a new spin on search with a question based search engine.

Google has made several attempts to embrace the “Now Web” in the second quarter, some successful, some not. The company released Wave, a combination of email, instant messaging and a real-time wiki, to developers. However, even the company admits that it is unclear how this new application will be monetized. Google also launched several new search features in the second quarter which incorporate real-time web concepts.

Moving forward, it is unclear what steps Google will take to become part of the real-time web. Google may choose to focus on its own social networking site, Orkut.  The search giant is also introducing social networking tools. For instance, Google Reader has following functions now, and Blogger (among other services) offers Google Connect and Following.

Social networking is a rapidly evolving space. Leading players are at the mercy of fickle consumer and media preferences and can be displaced quickly by the newest, hottest site. However, the underlying concept, the real-time web, is not a momentary trend, but is the future of the web. The next several quarters will be critical in defining what the real-time web will be and which companies will take the lead in bringing it forth.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Introducing NewNet: How the Internet Is Changing
  3. Social Networking
    1. MySpace Struggling
    2. Twitter
    3. Facebook’s Identity Crisis
    4. Facebook Acquires FriendFeed
    5. Privacy Concerns
    6. Social Networks and the Race Toward Real-Time
    7. Social Network Startups: Launches, Fundings, and Failures
  4. NewNet Search Wars
  5. Copyright and the Real-Time Web
  6. Real-Time Data & Smart Grid
  7. Real-Time Corporate Communication
  8. Companies to Watch
  9. Key Takeaways
  10. About GigaOM Pro

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