RISE AND POPULARITY OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES The first significant social networking site was classmates.com, founded in 1995. Classmates.com allows for high school and college classmates and graduates to stay in touch. The site has been joined by, among others, Friendster.com, founded in 2002, MySpace, founded in 2003, and Facebook, founded in 2004. According to a press release from Hitwise (2004), a company that specializes in online web traffic and marketing, visits to social networking sites accounted for 6.5% of all Internet visits in February 2007. At that point in time, MySpace accounted for 80% of the market share, with Facebook holding 10% of the market. Other services such as Bebo, BlackPlanet, Classmates, Friendster, Orkut, and imeem accounted for less than 1% each. The same press release stated that “Buzznet and imeem are succeeding in building communities around music.” By April 2007, Facebook had grown its market share to 11.5%, doubling its traffic since opening up its service to Internet users without school affiliation. The year 2007 was a watershed for music-oriented social networks as a host of upstarts were all vying to be the next MySpace. By the end of 2007, the other social networking services had begun to encroach on MySpace’s commanding lead, which had declined slightly to 76% for the year and 72% for December 2007. Facebook continued its growth to 16% by December, with Bebo and BlackPlanet moving over the 1% mark. In early 2008, imeem acquired fledgling online retailer SNOCAP. imeem was the first network that revolved around music; relationships were formed and potential friends were recommended based on music preferences and the
primary focus of interaction on the site was music. After struggling financially, imeem was acquired by MySpace in 2009 and shut down. By 2010, headlines such as “Twitter, Facebook soar as MySpace sags in U.S. market share” began to appear. Nielsen reported in 2010 that Facebook had increased its traffic by 70% in one year, for a total of 115 million users. Twitter was reaching 20 million U.S. users by mid-2010. Over the same time period, MySpace usage began to drop by 25% to 45 million page views. By January 2012, Facebook had almost 65% of the social network market, with YouTube in second place at almost 20% of the market. Twitter was a distant third with less than 2% of the market, and MySpace had fallen to less than 1% of traffic. At that time, the new upstart Google + also had less than 1% of social network traffic.