Preeminent among these virtual hangouts is MySpace.com, whose membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members. Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Millions also hang out at other up-and-coming networks such as Facebook.com, which connects college students, and Xanga.com, an agglomeration of shared blogs. A second tier of some 300 smaller sites, such as Buzz-Oven, Classface.com, and Photobucket.com, operate under — and often inside or next to — the larger ones.
Although networks are still in their infancy, experts think they’re already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real-world interactions. In fact, today’s young generation largely ignores the difference. Increasingly, America’s middle- and upper-class youth use
social networks as virtual community centers, a place to go and sit for a while (sometimes hours). While older folks come and go for a task, [young Americans] are just as likely to socialize online as off.
Related Business Week stories:
- The networked life of a 21-year-old
- Taking the Ypulse of the MySpace generation
- Protecting your kids from cyber-predators
- Keeping kids safe online
- Graphic: Some stats on US teens (12 to 17)