Facebook went live on February 4, 2004 (my birthday, BTW!). In The Accidental Billionaires, author Ben Mezrich described the day when Mark Zuckerberg explained the site’s interface to his business partner and fellow Harvard sophomore:
Mark hit more keys, changing the page to the opening screen that you’d see when you went to thefacebook.com. . . It was extremely simple- and clean-looking.
“So to log on,” Eduardo [Saverin] said, his hovering shadow covering most of the screen. “You need a Harvard.edu e-mail, then you choose a password.”
“Correct,” [said Mark].
The Harvard.edu e-mail was key, in Eduardo’s mind; you had to be a Harvard student to join the site. Mark and Eduardo know that exclusivity would make the site more popular.
They were right. Within hours, the majority of the Harvard student body was a registered member. Within a few short months, students from colleges across the country were petitioning for Facebook to grant access to their school. And today, well, we all know where the site stands internationally.
Exclusivity was the key to Facebook’s initial success and several other social networking sites have followed suit. Since then, several online entrepreneurs have been trying to recreate the success Zuckerberg is now enjoying. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the most exclusive sites currently available – to those who make the cut.
Path: Former Facebook executive Dave Morin recently launched this site that allows members to connect with only 50 friends at a time. According to a recent interview with Morin, the idea for this social network stems from research done by a professor at Oxford University who found that the human brain is only capable of sustaining 50 personal relationships at a time. Known as “The Personal Network,” Path may be more cutthroat than high school cheerleading.
CollegeOnly: CollegeOnly is – obviously – only open to students currently enrolled in college. The site was created in response to the backlash Facebook received when it opened its social networking to anyone of any age, thus dropping the .edu log-in requirement mentioned above. Here, students can rest easy when posting pictures from last night’s kegger knowing potential employers and parents will never see the results.
Affluence.org: Yes, it is just like it sounds. Affluence.org is a private social network for wealthy individuals. Membership is free, but participants must prove their annual income is more than $300,000 and/or their network is over $3 million. Once approved, members can connect, share information on their personal and business ventures, and receive “high quality content and advice from experts on subjects such as art, technology and travel.” The next New York Lottery Jackpot is $34 million – you never know!
These sites are in their early stages, aiming to attract a code audience base. Still it is unlikely that any of these sites or others like them will ever be able to hold a candle to Facebook. Sure, the exclusivity was one of Facebook key factors of success in its early stages, but it has been the site’s ability to deliver a universal network that has made it sustainable.