What makes him powerful: Close to half of all social networking users have now visited destinations such as MySpace and Facebook via mobile device, according to a recent online survey conducted by market analysis firm ABI Research. And while Facebook edged past MySpace in terms of monthly unique visitors in mid-2008, MySpace remains the service of choice for mobile subscribers. ABI reports that among all mobile social networking users, nearly 70 percent have visited MySpace, with another 67 percent checking their Facebook accounts.
No other social networking destination achieved 15 percent mobile adoption, bolstering the argument that consumers prefer to access their existing accounts on the go instead of creating new and separate profiles exclusive to the wireless platform--that seems especially true among the ever-growing segment of smartphone-toting enterprise members who've abandoned their Rolodexes in favor of making and nurturing their professional contacts via the virtual world.
MySpace's increasing wireless profile is thanks in large part to the efforts of John Faith, the executive most closely tied to the site's mobile fortunes. Since Rupert Murdoch's News Corp acquired MySpace parent firm Intermix Media for $580 million in July 2005, the service has aggressively established a beachhead on mobile handsets, in February 2006 introducing its first wireless service with ill-fated MVNO Helio. Since that time, MySpace Mobile has launched via AT&T, Vodafone, Sprint and T-Mobile USA, as well as debuting mobile applications optimized for Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform and Apple's iPhone (the latter generating more than a million downloads since debuting in July). While MySpace Mobile presently offers a simplified version of the desktop social networking experience, limited for the most part to photo uploads, status updates and user comments, Faith said during an appearance at September's CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment event that the service's mobile ambitions include deeper integration with its web platform as well as geo-spatial networking and related features that fully exploit the possibilities of mobile technology.
ABI believes mobile social networking will follow the free, browser-based model defined by sites such as MySpace, which could limit mobile operator data traffic. Mobile content sales and mobile advertising efforts will instead drive revenues, with mobile social networking subscribers likely to consume two or three times as much digital content than their peers. There are no guarantees MySpace will remain out front in five years--remember Friendster?--but for now, the site remains the standard by which mobile social networking services are judged as well as a harbinger of personal and professional interaction in the 21st century.