The Facebook generation

It looks like the fight to dominate the online social networking scene is fast becoming the Google-Yahoo! scrap of Web 2.0. And it's proving just as fascinating. All eyes were until recently fixed on MySpace, the chaotic DIY hub that went from geeky start-up to a $580m Rupert Murdoch deal in the blink of an eye, becoming the label for an entire generation along the way. It's still not even four years old.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Increasingly however talk is turning to the more sedate pages of Facebook. It seems like you can't go a day now without its name cropping up in at least one conversation, and this among respectable salaried adults as much as teens gossiping about emo bands and the latest Britney disgrace. Facebook's quieter design and more intimate contacts system appeal to a different clientele - twenty-five percent of Facebook's users are over 24, and that proportion is growing. Even our esteemed editor is a member. He has a grand total of two ‘friends', one of whom is his son, the other he's never heard of. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is sitting on a goldmine, and he knows it - Murdoch's swoop for MySpace was followed soon after by Google snapping up YouTube, for eyebrow-raising sums of cash. The 23-year-old has already turned down a Yahoo! approach for Facebook that would have netted him $1.6bn. Not only is he Murdoch's main rival in social networking, he's clearly got a touch of the old man's steely sense of purpose too.

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