CNet reports an estimate of $1b being invested in virtual worlds. While comparing with social networks, it says

One of the reasons the genre still feels like a niche is that there is no single virtual world that everyone is using, like there is with social networks like MySpace or Facebook. World of Warcraft is huge, with more than 9 million paying subscribers, but that pales with what MySpace has.

That makes me think about the future of social networks. Social networks started as fairly standard “my profile page, friends page and scraps” model. A general product has the potential of attracting mass audience. Over time, they are getting more immersive (high engagement applications). Virtual worlds are often sharpely positioned, and serve a particular audience/taste well. As social networks becomes richer, focus on servicing specific audience/taste is likely to create relatively smaller communities. For example, with the open application support on facebook (yes, its hard to talk about social networks without talking about facebook!), will the sub-communities thus formed actually become far stronger than the underlying facebook brand? Facebook brand may continue to stand for the common infrastructure, but will users say “I am on iWatch” rather than “I am on facebook”? Especially if some of these applications try to migrate to being communities in their own right, rather than just individual applications? Does the student community now feel a need for their own social network, which facebook has grown out of?