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Facebook: None dare call it Web 2.0

The most visible evidence of the rise of Web 2.0, or at least the social media and social networking that tends to define it, is the astronomical growth of Facebook. Many Web 2.0 role players, including some prospective members of the Amablogoblogo, reject Facebook as a member of the Web 2.0 family, because it makes everything too easy and non-tech. Here’s a newsflash: that is the ultimate promise of Web2.0; to make the technical genius behind the applications invisible to their users.

Since part of the role of this blog is to track the trends in Web 2.0 take-up, it will continually update and analyse Facebook statistics.

The most relevant of all those statistics, to South Africans, is the number of members in the regional networks. On the last day of August 2007, the South African network stood at 231 000 members. That keeps it firmly in sixth place in terms of members of regional networks worldwide.

The United States now and for the foreseeable future will remain at the top of the pile, largely because it was an American phenomenon to begin with, and largely because of the readiness of Americans to engage in social networking. An important aspect of Americans’ usage is that most users join a university or school network, and only then do city networks come into play. The New York City network stands at 348 000. While that may be larger than the entire South African network, it represents only a secondary network for many New Yorkers.

The United Kingdom lies in second place, with London representing probably the world’s single largest regional network, having passed the 1 000 001 mark on August 30 — the first network to do so.

Canada lies in third place, with Toronto boasting the world’s second-largest single network (as opposed to combined regional networks for one country), at 805 000 members.

Each of these three countries has their regional networks broken down into cities or areas, which in combination amount to many millions. In contrast, outside of those three countries, not a single country has yet reached the half-million mark. That’s not a criticism; perhaps it suggests that people living in other countries have a life that doesn’t depend on digitalised socialisation.

The next three countries on the chart, however, clearly aspire to the digital version of a social life. They are, in order:

  • Number 4: Norway — 328 000 members. Evidence that Facebook doesn’t depend on the English language, as some have argued.
  • Number 5: Australia — 320 000 members. Evidence that Australians aren’t all watching cricket and rugby all the time. Also evidence that Australia will soon be the number-four country on Facebook, as its rate of growth is outpacing that of Norway.
  • Number 6: South Africa — 231 000 members. In no danger of catching up to the Aussies yet, but also not yet in danger of being caught up by anyone else, as the next ranked country reveals.
  • Number 7: Sweden — 156 000. And before you assume that Scandinavians are all on Facebook because they don’t know how to socialise in real life, Finland isn’t even in the frame, with a mere 14 000 members.
  • The previous comment also represents another false assumption: just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean it’s not real life. For many people, it supplements their social life and even enhances it. And for many, real life would be all the poorer without social networks of this kind to ease it along.

    As promised, a reality check on these numbers will be provided by tracking the Mrs Weasley Appreciation Group, also known as the “Not my daughter, you bitch!” group (you have to read the last Harry Potter to get it). It now stands at 130 000 members, which represents only marginal growth in the past week or two, suggesting that its challenge to the stature of the South African network may be fading. Recommendations from readers for similarly absurd but meaningful groups to be used for reality checks are welcome.

    Networks that are unlikely to mount any kind of challenge to anyone this century are the North Korea (192 members) and Kazakhstan (2 350 members) networks, which have become little more than joke groups for the many wise guys who inhabit Facebook. Well, at least there you argue emotionally about Borat or add the pretender to the throne of North Korea to your list of friends.

    Visit Korea - or else

    The official version of virtual North Korea is far more hilarious — indeed, we at Amablogoblogo have voted it the most hilarious site on all of the world wide web. It is fully multimedia, with an MP3 clip of the national hymn, Song of National Defence, and it even encourages networking. All you have to do to become a member of the Korean Friendship Association is find the poster of the man with the rifle, and you’ll never need Facebook again.

    Author

    • Arthur Goldstuck

      Arthur Goldstuck is a South African journalist, media analyst and commentator on information and communications technology (ICT), internet and mobile communications and technologies. Goldstuck heads the World Wide Worx research organisation, and has led research into ICT issues such as the effects of IT on small business, the role of mobile technologies in business and government, and the technology challenges of the financial services sector. He regularly provides strategic insights and guidance on trends at conferences and corporate events across Africa.