5 hot social networking sites

And three formerly hot social networking sites that are hoping for a re-birth

b. What it does: Originally, it was just set up to allow members to search for classmates by the years of school attendance or by graduation date, plan events such as reunions, and create bulletin boards for notes and messages; however, it was just completely redesigned with a sort of "50s" look and a new slogan claiming that it's the "premier destination for accessing nostalgic content, yearbooks, and connecting with people."

c. Why it declined: It has less functionality than its competitors (Facebook, MySpace, etc.), a confusing interface, and it charged members for services that all the other social networks provide for free.

Also, its business practices generated a fair amount of criticism. Some members complained via online forums that it auto-renewed memberships without permission, and, in 2006, PC World magazine listed Classmates.com as one of the worst companies for cancelling membership.

Also criticized was its practice of sending out emails to new, potential members that said old friends and classmates were searching for them, but requiring that people paid for a membership before being allowed to see who those old friends were.

d. Stats (page views, number of subscribers, followers, etc.): According to Classmates, it receives 566,876 page views per day and 225,540 visitors a day.

e. Funding sources: Madrona Venture Group was the primary funding source for Classmates.com. The company was acquired by United Online Inc. in 2004. United Online reports the first quarter (2011) results as follows: total revenues of $241.5 million, operating income of $22.6 million and adjusted OIBDA of $44.2 million.

The bottom line, according to the analysts, is that success in the social networking environment depends on four things: the site must be designed for mobile platforms; it should use game mechanics as a reward system; it must be original, no more clones; and it can't be proprietary ; that is, it has to easily integrate and share information, friend lists, favorites, etc.

Sartain is the author of "Data Networks 101" and a freelance journalist from Salt Lake City, Utah. She can be reached at julesds@comcast.net.

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This story, "5 hot social networking sites" was originally published by Network World.

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