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MySpace Rivals Gaining Steam

Despite our fascination with MySpace, YouTube and Facebook (barely anyone mentions Google in the news anymore), their young, fickle core user base could evaporate as easily as any of the millions of fads that have fallen by the wayside. That isn't to say that social networking will die or online video will no longer be interesting to consumers in a few years, but there's nothing to keep users tied to a user-generated content site.

Conversely, Google's superior technology keeps people coming back to the site to find things on the Web; users can create content and community anywhere where they are given the tools to do so. That means there's far less tying them to the MySpaces and Facebooks of the world. Sensing this, second-tier social-networking sites are cropping up on the Web, letting people do many of the same things they can on MySpace: Create their own Web pages, upload photos, music and video, and send notes to friends. The newspaper profiles users of Piczo, HI5 and XuQa.com, three San Francisco startups--many of whom also have MySpace accounts but prefer to spend the majority of their time at these smaller, less chaotic social networks.

Piczo, for example, feels more intimate than MySpace. It leaves out a search engine, so people have to find each other in a more organic way than searching for keywords. Incidentally, the feature also helps insulate Piczo's users from online predators and other sketchy visitors. Last month, the site attracted 10.2 million unique users, according to comScore World Metrix, compared with the 15.5 million attracted by Facebook. For now, these smaller social networks are content to be the third or fourth network their members belong to. MySpace is absolutely killing the competition with 80 million uniques per month. But one day, if News Corp. isn't careful, users could easily ditch MySpace for the next big thing

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