A new wave of social networks aims to shrink the number of people in your circle.
The latest web fad? Private social networks. A growing number of services let users connect in smaller groups often around specific events. With Path, for example, you're only allowed 50 friends; the goal is to share more intimate life details -- kids' pics, a tasty breakfast -- with a more controlled group of people -- maybe just your girlfriend and your sister. New services are sprouting up for everyone: NYC moms calendaring playdates? Try RedRover. Hunters wanting to chat in text message groups? Try Group.me.
The time is right for these networks to take seed. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous. With app stores, entrepreneurs can look beyond advertising to make money. As technology costs plummet, these services are less expensive to launch. And Facebook has made users comfortable sharing things online.
But many are attracting substantial investments even before users have fallen in love with them. Path, which only launched in November and has just "hundreds of thousands" of users, has accepted $11.2 million in funding so far and reportedly turned down a $100 million buyout offer from Google (GOOG). Photo-sharing service Instagram, which has amassed 1.75 million members since its October launch, recently took $7.5 million.
Will any of these services thrive? With more than 500 million members and the most talented engineering staff in Silicon Valley, Facebook could likely replicate or buy many of these services if they seemed like promising businesses. Users could tire of them just as they tired of earlier social networks like MySpace and Bebo. But for the moment, they're all the rage.
Also on Fortune.com:
AOL sold it for 1/85th what it paid for it. Now it's got new leaders who seem to be sure of only one thing: AOL is to blame for all their troubles.
One day you're in, and the next, you're out.
At least that's how social media works. The Facebook of today invariably becomes another Friendster, a faded A-list property whose best days are behind it. But what about the rising MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Sep 15, 2010 2:29 PM ET
This is the first in a series of articles leading up to Fortune Brainstorm Tech, which takes place July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo. The articles will look back at the progress of companies that presented at Brainstorm in 2009 as well as look forward to those that will present this year.
By Shelley DuBois, reporter
AOL was coming back with a vengeance, brand-new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told Fortune's 2009 Brainstorm Tech MOREJun 9, 2010 10:47 AM ET
If new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong keeps talking, the company just might reemerge Phoenix-like on the Internet landscape. At least that's what the results of audience polling showed at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference Thursday.
Fortune's David Kirkpatrick opened the interview by asking whether AOL would slowly "run out of juice, remain profitable but not a significant industry force, or return to health as a major Internet player." Using devices provided by MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jul 23, 2009 5:54 PM ET
|Ukraine crisis: Aid, sanctions and fallout|
|AT&T cuts prices again|
|Malaysia Airlines stock sharply lower after plane vanishes|
|Winners and losers of the bull market|
|The medical marijuana ad that never aired, despite contrary media headlines|