By now, no one has to define the term “social network.” It’s all but common knowledge, at least to their users. I, for one, love using them and reading about them, for a number of reasons. On the one hand, sites like Facebook are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. Ok, got it. Nothing ground-breaking there. But on the other, and what really interests me, are the more niche-market sites like Last.fm or Flixster. They provide much of the same “make a profile and connect with friends” functionality as their more general counterparts, but they also have a common theme in which, presumably, all of their users share an interest.
It’s these common-theme social networks that I think make the biggest impact on users and on the web. Obviously, they don’t boast the user base that Facebook and MySpace enjoy, but that’s part of their charm. They focus in on what users care about, and they provide compelling, relevant media. Even more professionally-minded social networks like LinkedIn enjoy some of this niche goodness. In their case, the niche is that of career-driven professionals. The topics of conversation are often related to industry conventions or “new opportunities.”
And Facebook, et al. aren’t letting this “competition” bother them. Rather, they see these niche sites as a compliment to their broad appeal. If a user has a Facebook profile and a Last.fm profile, why not combine the two in some way? Show their Last.fm activity on their Facebook profile. It keeps users engaged in both networks. It’s a brilliant move on the part of Facebook, et al., and it’s better for the social web in the long run.