The underdogs of social networking

14 April, 2008 at 3:41 pm 1 comment

Despite bandwidth issues and warnings from their bosses (in my case, the Rhodes IT department), South Africans have gone gaga over social networking. Justin Hartman’s nifty stats show that there are over 730 000 of us on Facebook, making SA the country with the 10th highest number of Facebook users in the world.

What’s equally interesting is that many local social networks have emerged in the past year or two, some aimed at connecting the general SA online population, and others at forming interest-based communities.

Home grown

There’s Blueworld, where users can network, share pics and videos, and set up a blog. It also has a free SMS service, and a feature that’s similar to Blueworld “photographers” cover various clubbing scenes, and then upload the pics to the site. Vrinne is another social network aimed at connecting South Africans from around the world. It’s still a work in progress though, and offers only basic features at the moment.

MyGenius and BizJam are geared towards young entrepreneurs. It seems like a good way for freelancers and small businesses to market themselves.

GayPeers is another network aimed at connecting the South African LGBT community. It has the usual features: blogging, chats, polls, and video and photo sharing. Judging by the number of blog posts, this social network seems to be quite popular.

Then there’s Digspot and StudentVillage, geared towards connecting university students across campuses. One can catch up on the recent events across universities in the form of news bulletins. StudentVillage seems to be more interactive though, due to its live chat option and classifieds section.

My personal favourite is ZoopedUp, a social network for car lovers. Members can create their own “cyber garages”, share pics and videos, and chat about everything automotive on blogs or forums.

Local vs. Global

Despite the variety of local social networks available, South Africans don’t seem to be using them that much. I had a look at South Africa’s Alexa ratings this morning, and Facebook and MySpace featured in the top 20 of the most popular sites in the country. None of the local social networking sites above made the list.

A possible reason for this could be that users simply prefer the “global original” rather than the local equivalent. I’ve joined the BlueWorld and StudentVillage networks, but their novelty has already off for me because none of my friends are members. What’s great about Facebook though is that because its so popular, you’re most likely to find people you know on it, and you can then network with them in a single, convenient space.

While I think social networks like ZoopedUp and BizJam are useful and innovative, those aimed only at South Africans can’t compete with their global counterparts. Partly because of the latter’s colossal appeal, and partly because a South African – or Canadian or Spanish – social network restricts users’ scope of communication. We’re in the age of globalisation, not nationalism, after all.

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Blog Debut Learning the Web 2.0 way (1/2)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Guy  |  26 May, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    You should add to this list. I came across them and pretty cool.

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