- 9 Oct 08, 17:53 GMT
Remember Facebook? You know, that site that everyone was talking about last year? Hopelessly fashionable, and if you weren't on it and friends with about 500 other Facebookers you really felt out of the loop. Of course, that was before the credit crunch came along, sweeping away the London media obsession with the social networking site.
The tech crowd migrated to Twitter, which quickly became the medium of choice for everything from idle chatter to self-promotion to research. I use it for all of those myself and when I used it to asked Twitterers "do you Facebook too?" I swiftly got a rash of answers. Some were still keen, stressing it had a different purpose from Twitter and a different audience, but many expressed a certain weariness with Facebook:
"Twitter is much simpler,,, And I prefer the community feel with Twitter.
"I have a Facebook account but it is never used. I am pretty much exclusively Twitter these days."
"I've used FB for ages. Bored of it now tho"
"I've issues re the fact everyone is yr 'friend' regardless of relationship".
But guess what? While the eary adopters may have moved on, the rest of the country has kept on coming to Facebook. Some recent figures from Nielsen show it has 14 million users in the UK, spending an average of four hours and twenty three minutes a months with the site. That compares with 5.6 million for MySpace, and its users spent just 55 minutes a month there.
Now a year ago the two were neck and neck on around 6 million, so just at the very point when the media decided that Facebook was old hat, it was really beginning to take off. Which goes to show just how easy it is for journalists to assume, wrongly, that everybody is like them. And while Twitter, according to one report, has grown its UK audience fivefold this year and is more popular here than in the US, it's still very much a minority sport.
Facebook is definitely pulling in the crowds - but is it making any money? MySpace may be less popular outside the US but claims that it has been a profitable business since day one, by focussing on boosting advertising rather than membership. But Facebook - which appeared to be poised to win loads of advertising revenue through a host of new applications - may be struggling to deliver on that promise.
I spoke to a UK web developer this week, one of those who'd rushed to create new Facebook applications when the site opened up its platform. He admitted that he'd not made any serious money so far, and wondered whether the network itself was prospering. "The Facebook guys have had to work very hard to convince people to buy their ads," he said. "They're struggling to monetise it."
We hope to find out a bit more about this and other aspects of Facebook when we meet its founder on Friday. We'll be interviewing Mark Zuckerberg, the 24 year old who dropped out of Harvard to build a business that has been valued at as much as $15 billion, when he passes through London. If you've got any questions you think he shoud hear, let us know.
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