Wasabi Adds White-Label; Sign Of Tough Times For Social Nets?

Wasabi, the social network formerly called Passado and whose owner is suing to claim ownership of Russia’s leading social network, will offer its core infrastructure to companies on a white-label basis, as it seeks an additional revenue stream in the face of competition and stuttering social media ad growth. Like Ning, Webjam, KickApps and SocialGO before it, Wasabi White Label will let users create their own rudimentary social networks for free; Wasabi will keep income from ads on the sites or users can take out a premium option to remove the ads – we understand Wasabi will name an ad network partner in the next two weeks.

With social network ad spend failing to meet forecasts (see eMarketer) and the bigger networks like Facebook squeezing out relatively small sites like Wasabi, it’s unsurprising such sites will seek new alternative business models to stay afloat in ’09, in this case by renting out the core technology. But Wasabi’s offering launches in to a market already populated by the above rivals.

Launched as school-centric Passado in the wake of Friends Reunited in 2002, the multi-lingual site claimed to be the top pan-European social network by 2004, with 4.5 million users. But larger rivals have overtaken it and owner i-CD is now smarting from the success of one such in Russia. It’s suing former director Albert Popkov, whom it accuses of founding the country’s top social network Odnoklassniki.ru while still working for the firm in 2006, a claim he strongly denies but which is due to be heard in court later this year.

Adding a white label string to your bow sounds like a good plan, but Wasabi may find that the biggest and most profitable businesses already have all the social networking capabilities they want, or need.