Social Networking Catches Mobile Madness

MySpace launched a social networking experience designed for the iPhone (available free at the App Store) today that will take advantage of the touch interface. As part of the launch, they sent out a fact sheet detailing some mobile stats that I found pretty compelling, notably that of MySpace’s 115 million members, up to 5 million are expected to use the mobile site by the end of the year, with 3.1 million using it now. And most of those users come through MySpace’s mobile web site rather than through an on-deck, carrier-supplied link.

This highlights two trends for mobile: One, the waning influence of carriers and the subsequent need for an on-deck application; and two, the rise of social networking on mobile phones. The first has been well established with successful applications such as Opera Mini and other downloadable web browsers, as well as the choice by many mobile application developers to deliver their services through a browser rather than a client on the phone. Carriers aren’t giving up their influence, but expect to see the more forward-thinking among them doing deals to buy apps makers, which will make their influence less obvious, but leave a revenue stream intact.

The second trend is something I’ve previously doubted, but now realize I was simply too old and not social enough to believe. The number of existing MySpace users, however, convinced me (even though Opera already released tallies that showed as the most-visited mobile site in the U.S. and Facebook as No. 5). And the numbers are backed up by data that iSuppli released earlier this week that concluded, “Though there have not been any successful implementations of wireless social networking to date, the widespread adoption of mobile Internet devices like the iPhone will spur an entirely new generation of wireless social networking businesses and business models starting in 2009.”

As consumers embrace location-based services, a social element will naturally come into play. The use of open APIs at many social networks makes using the mobile phone as your social network easier and allows for services like the new social phone book from Zyb. Plus, social networking via mobile makes more sense once the interface gets easier. After all, you’re often away from the computer for hours and when in front of one, likely are focused on work or completing a task. But the mobile is a fun device, on which taking a few seconds to update your status or answer a quick email can easily be worked into daily activities. The phone will continue to keep folks connected.