In 2010, we predicted that Facebook would conquer the web. We just didn’t know the social network would do it so convincingly. We’re not oracles, though, and we did miss on some of our acquisition picks. Well, time for round two.
Here are my predictions for what will happen in the world of social networking in 2011:
1. Google’s Social Networking Efforts Flop Spectacularly
Google dominates search. It has nailed mobile. Oh, and it owns YouTube, the web’s biggest video property. So why the heck does it fail so miserably at social?
Until this year, Google’s had middling success in social — YouTube, Gmail, Gtalk, Blogger and Orkut have all had varying levels of success. This year though, Google Wave was shut down, Google Buzz flopped and Google’s big social initiative has been delayed due to in-fighting and a lack of clarity and purpose.
Here’s my first prediction of the year: Google’s social media efforts will be spectacular failures. TechCrunch nabbed a screenshot of the “Google +1″ social toolbar, one big component of Google’s social plan, we’ve been told. We remain unimpressed, though. As Buzz demonstrated, sticking something social on a page doesn’t mean people will instantly use it.
More importantly, Google as a company is built for speed and efficiency, neither of which are critical to the success of a social network. That’s why we predict another horrendous year for the search giant in the social realm.
2. A Middling MySpace Is Sold Off
Despite a total redesign and overhaul, MySpace continues to plummet like a boulder pushed off a cliff. While we’re fans of the social network’s attempt to reinvent itself as a “social entertainment destination,” the frank truth is that MySpace is bleeding money and there’s no end in sight to the bloodshed.
Eventually MySpace will bottom out; we just don’t know when. It won’t come soon enough for News Corp. though, and it will start looking for someone to take its high-profile Internet property off of its hands. MySpace is still a valuable asset in the right hands, so somebody will pick it up.
3. Bebo Gets a New Owner… Again
Bebo’s fall from grace is one of the sad stories of social networking. When we first covered Bebo in 2006, it was on its way to becoming a powerhouse. In 2008, AOL acquired Bebo for $850 million, an astounding (and overvalued) price point.
Six months ago, AOL sold Bebo for about $10 million to Criterion Capital Partners. Then they made a few big moves: they hired Kevin Bachus, co-creator of the Xbox, and brought Bebo co-founder Michael Birch back as an advisor and investor.
Bebo’s still shrinking though. Unless Birch and Bachus can orchestrate a comeback of Rocky proportions, Criterion Capital Partners will start looking to make money on its investment or at least minimize its loss. Even if it makes a comeback, Criterion’s reportedly interested in selling Bebo this year.
We expect Bebo to be in new hands by this time next year. The most likely acquirers, we believe, would be a group led by Birch himself.
4. No Facebook IPO in 2011
I’m here to tell the media: Don’t hold your breath.
I could create a list of reasons the size of an SUV why Facebook and its billionaire leader aren’t going to be raising money on the public markets. Here are just a few of them:
- Mark Zuckerberg is famously uninterested in money. He believes in delayed gratification and has lived in a modest home for years — he’s the opposite of the far more extravagant Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle. In other words, he’s in no rush for a big payday.
- Secondary markets like Sharespost have changed the game for cashing out on investments. In the past, VCs needed to cash out on their investments by acquisition or IPO, but as Accel Partners proved last month, VCs no longer need an IPO to do so.
- Zuckerberg sees no strategic advantage to an IPO. In fact, it’s just a lot more paperwork, headaches and scrutiny. He’d love to delay that as long as possible.
- Facebook doesn’t believe it’s ready for an IPO: “Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing,” Business Week reported earlier this year.
The result is that there won’t be a Facebook IPO in 2011. So long as the company’s growth metrics are strong, Facebook has no need for the public markets. When it hits its saturation point though, that’s when you should expect the social network to make its move. I predict that will happen in 2012.
5. Twitter Has a Very Boring 2011
While I don’t consider Twitter a social network, many people do, so it’s only appropriate that I provide a prediction for what will happen to Twitter in 2011.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting: Twitter’s going to have a steady and boring 2011.
Sure, Twitter will launch new features, and senior execs will continue to step down and new people will take their place, but that’s what happens to any maturing business. Now that Twitter has new funding, has launched its ad platform and has launched a complete redesign, is there an earth-shattering event that could take us by surprise?
I don’t discount it; I just don’t predict there will be one. An IPO makes no sense with the new round of funding. A redesign isn’t necessary. Really, Twitter is focused on its ad platform and will launch features that enhance it. Twitter will slowly continue to grow, but I don’t expect Facebook-like hockey stick growth.
In 2011, Twitter is going to be one of the most boring social media services around. And I know the Twitter team is just fine with that.
6. The Social Networking Trend of 2011: Mobile Photos
“We’re in a unique time right now because of the power of the cell phone with the two cameras, both the front and the back, and the broadband networks that allow photos to be shared simply and consumed through social networks in realtime.” ~Brian Pokorny, Dailybooth CEO
Pokorny was discussing during his Ignite talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He argued that publishing has evolved from the desktop (blogging) to the phone (tweeting) to the smartphone (photo-taking).
While social photography is nothing new (Flickr and Facebook dominate), mobile photography is just beginning to blossom, thanks to apps like Instagram, PicPlz, Path, and Dailybooth. Other services like Tumblr, Gowalla, Posterous and most recently Foursquare are only pushing the trend further.
2011 will be the year mobile photo sharing becomes all the rage. These services will hit critical mass as smartphone users install apps in order to keep up with their friends. I also predict that Facebook will join the fray and implement new mobile photo-sharing features integrated with its Places platform, bringing the whole trend to another level.
What Are Your Predictions?
Enough with my predictions. What do you predict will happen in the social networking space in 2011? Who will get acquired? Who will be acquiring? What will the big trends in social networking be next year?
Let us know your answers in the comments below.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, temniy
Via Mashable: http://www.mashable.com