Myspace controls 80 percent of the social networking sites. Google has 50 percent of web searches. eBay, PayPal, Flickr, etc. The web, for all its range and unlimited information, enjoys anointing single sites as the rulers of that particular genre. For all the discussion of media consolidation and big business in the physical world, online seems to have an eerie effect. Even when options appear, web users prefer to join/stick with the leaders in each field.
The reason for this appears obvious. The most popular web sites thrive on user-generated content, from eBay’s auctions to Myspaces my-spaces. Why join Faceparty.com when all my friends are already on Myspace. With Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and other sources of information, users want all their information in one place. But this presents a difficult business and advertising challenge.
First, how do companies expand and/or start-up in this monopoly based climate? New social networks and search engines keep popping up against the Myspace and Google juggernauts (even Microsoft is having trouble here). Does this mean every new business is going to have to be an original, home grown idea. And if so, how many standard sites can I fit into my daily schedule.
Second, how, if at all, can web monopolies hurt/help business and users? Already, Google is the lord of web advertising. High placement on popular search terms can guarantee a website’s success, with similar results for paid Google ads. But YouTube and Myspace have yet to find real business models, still in the experimental stages, so their place as a controlled market force, like Google, remains to be seen.
And lastly, how does this happen? For any web start up, the question can no longer be, how do I make a new search engine. It has to be about how do I make something completely new. Then ask, how do I get everybody to use it. How, if at all, can this viral marketing be manipulated. Myspace, YouTube, Flickr all work without any advertising and are monsters in their genres.
A few exceptions, to note. Job sites are quite plenty. Craig’s List appears a decisive leader in all things classified, but HotJobs and Monster compete on pretty fair ground (and HotJobs has the backing of Yahoo!). Yellow pages and dating sites also do not seem to suffer from monopolies. At first glance, there seems to be a link in the need for local or specialized information, but many of these sites offer very redundant information (with similar features as Google Maps compared to MapQuest, both with yellow pages, and even Myspace for dating sites).