Tag Archives: copy/paste innovation

Facebook Leapfrogs Rivals in France

We all got used to the hockey-stick growth of Facebook worldwide. However, the global figures don’t tell the whole story. What is interesting to me is the impact of global social networks will make on fragmented European markets and incumbent social media service providers. For those who do business on a country level here in Europe the key question is: to what extent the local copy/paste innovators will be affected by the global player entering their backyard? You might want to look at my previous article Will Big Fish In a Small Pond Survive? discussing LinkedIn facing Xing in Germany (check out the comments as well for insight from Russia and Poland). Yesterday TechCrunch published interesting figures from France regarding performance of Facebook vs. local competitors that shed some more light on this. The graph below shows total French uniques for popular social networks. Original source for the figures from comScore is here.

Image courtesy of TechCrunch

Image courtesy of TechCrunch

The story behind this picture is that in February 2008 Facebook launched localized French user interface. I would humbly say that this supports my argument that indeed there is a real language barrier to the expansion of global social media players in Europe. Believe it or not, in Europe it is not that everybody speaks English and particularily France is a good example of that. Second thought: there is an untapped potential in the European markets for the global players despite the fact that in every country there is one or more strong incumbents offering similar services.

The good news for the local service providers is that their users apparently are not eager to ditch their existing profiles and connections right away, which should be expected anyway. It is more likely that they choose to maintain yet another profile. But with this growth of Facebook I wouldn’t expect many new users joining local alternatives (are you cash-positive, guys?).

Who is going to win this battle for the local markets? I will rephrase my question from my recent post: If you wanted to integrate your local (say: French) product in some way with social networking service and if you had to pick one – would you now bet on Facebook or on Skyrock?

With these numbers I would dare to go a step further and suggest some hints: If something grows globally, then – language barrier removed – it has a good chance to grow in your local market. MySpace for instance is flat pretty much everywhere, so it is not enough to be “global” and speak the local language. After some time (I guess, there must be some connection between global and local dynamics) it is likely that most of the population actively using social media is there, although it might not be their primary host for online identity and social graph. These might be the arguments for going with the big guys.


Will Big Fish In a Small Pond Survive?


If you read this blog, chances are you’ve heard of LinkedIn, the largest professional networking site in the world. It currently has over 35 million of registered users and the number grows by 1 million every 17 days. This growth rate might not be very impressive if compared to Facebook, but LinkedIn has been profitable for 2 years now and reportedly has $80 million in cash in their bank account. The private valuation of LinkedIn today is over $1 billion.

Today LinkedIn announced that they are moving into Germany with localized version of the service, which puts them on a collision course with Xing, the largest professional networking site in the country. The clash between global giant and local big fish deserves special attention. Let’s look at some numbers to remember:

Currently the LinkedIn user base in Europe amounts to 9 million. Last year they launched Spanish and French versions of their service and currently there are 200,000 registered users in Spain (population of 46 million) and 700,000 in France (population of 65 million). In Germany today LinkedIn has 500,000 registered users using English version out of 82 million population. In the other corner is Xing with over 6.5 million registered users. Although Xing has many language versions, it is safe to assume that a large part of this user pool are Germans. Xing is a public company, valued now at $182 million.

For us, Europeans, certainly language does matter because large part of European population does not speak or read English. This simple fact creates a market space for all sorts of copycats, essentially cloning the popular global services without any added value, except for speaking familiar language (no offence, Xing, it is not about your great service, but for instance in Poland there are at least 4 different clones of Twitter). Some of them gain ground and grow their user base significantly because, indeed, they offer a good service for their users. This phenomenon has been called by TechCrunch a copy/paste innovation.

I’ve been inclined to think that social networks have no real reason to be constrained by country borders. This should be specifically true for the 27 member states of the European Union where freedom of movement is one of the fundamental rights and people do move. Yet we speak at least 23 different languages in three entirely different alphabets. To what extent the language barrier is an obstacle to global social networks’ expansion in non-English speaking country? To what degree local social media incumbents, such as Xing, should feel threatened by the fact that a global player simply localizes their user interface? Will people abandon their local social network for the benefit of having one global professional identity and one global social graph? How quickly? I think this is the question that the LinkedIn vs. Xing competition will help to answer and I’m going to watch it closely.

What do you think? If you wanted to integrate your local (say: German) product in some way with professional networking service and if you had to pick one – would you now bet on LinkedIn or on Xing?