The past year was an eventful one for the world of social networking.Facebook went acquisition spree. Twitter started growing& And MySpace? Well it’s thesame old story over there.
In 2010, we predicted that Facebook would conquer the web. We just didn’t know the social network would do it so convincingly. We’re not oracles, though, and we did miss on some of our acquisition picks. Well, time for round two.
Now that Facebook is clearly king, what is going to happen to the rest of the world’s social networks? What will happen to Bebo? What’s next for MySpace? And will Facebook finally hold that IPO?

Here are my predictions for what will happen in the world of social networking in 2011:

1. Google’s Social Networking Efforts Flop Spectacularly

Google dominates search. It has nailed mobile. Oh, and it owns YouTube, the web’s biggest video property. So why the heck does it fail so miserably at social?
Until this year, Google’s had middling success in social — YouTube, GmailGtalkBlogger andOrkut have all had varying levels of success. This year though, Google Wave was shut down, Google Buzz flopped and Google’s big social initiative has been delayed due to in-fighting and a lack of clarity and purpose.
Here’s my first prediction of the year: Google’s social media efforts will be spectacular failures. TechCrunchnabbed a screenshot of the “Google +1″ social toolbar, one big component of Google’s social plan, we’ve been told. We remain unimpressed, though. As Buzz demonstrated, sticking something social on a page doesn’t mean people will instantly use it.
More importantly, Google as a company is built for speed and efficiency, neither of which are critical to the success of a social network. That’s why we predict another horrendous year for the search giant in the social realm.

2. A Middling MySpace Is Sold Off


Despite a total redesign and overhaul, MySpace continues to plummet like a boulder pushed off a cliff. While we’re fans of the social network’s attempt to reinvent itself as a “social entertainment destination,” the frank truth is that MySpace is bleeding money and there’s no end in sight to the bloodshed.
Eventually MySpace will bottom out; we just don’t know when. It won’t come soon enough for News Corp. though, and it will start looking for someone to take its high-profile Internet property off of its hands. MySpace is still a valuable asset in the right hands, so somebody will pick it up.

3. Bebo Gets a New Owner… Again

Bebo’s fall from grace is one of the sad stories of social networking. When we first covered Bebo in 2006, it was on its way to becoming a powerhouse. In 2008, AOL acquired Bebo for $850 million, an astounding (and overvalued) price point.
Six months ago, AOL sold Bebo for about $10 million to Criterion Capital Partners. Then they made a few big moves: they hired Kevin Bachus, co-creator of the Xbox, and brought Bebo co-founder Michael Birch back as an advisor and investor.
Bebo’s still shrinking though. Unless Birch and Bachus can orchestrate a comeback of Rocky proportions, Criterion Capital Partners will start looking to make money on its investment or at least minimize its loss. Even if it makes a comeback, Criterion’s reportedly interested in selling Bebo this year.
We expect Bebo to be in new hands by this time next year. The most likely acquirers, we believe, would be a group led by Birch himself.

4. No Facebook IPO in 2011


There have been countless rumors about a Facebook IPO since 2007. The media has been waiting with baited breath for the day that Mark Zuckerberg cashes in on his baby and turns his company public.
I’m here to tell the media: Don’t hold your breath.
I could create a list of reasons the size of an SUV why Facebook and its billionaire leader aren’t going to be raising money on the public markets. Here are just a few of them:
  • Mark Zuckerberg is famously uninterested in money. He believes in delayed gratification and has lived in a modest home for years — he’s the opposite of the far more extravagant Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle. In other words, he’s in no rush for a big payday.
  • Secondary markets like Sharespost have changed the game for cashing out on investments. In the past, VCs needed to cash out on their investments by acquisition or IPO, but as Accel Partners proved last month, VCs no longer need an IPO to do so.
  • Zuckerberg sees no strategic advantage to an IPO. In fact, it’s just a lot more paperwork, headaches and scrutiny. He’d love to delay that as long as possible.
  • Facebook doesn’t believe it’s ready for an IPO: “Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing,” Business Week reported earlier this year.
The result is that there won’t be a Facebook IPO in 2011. So long as the company’s growth metrics are strong, Facebook has no need for the public markets. When it hits its saturation point though, that’s when you should expect the social network to make its move. I predict that will happen in 2012.

5. Twitter Has a Very Boring 2011


While I don’t consider Twitter a social network, many people do, so it’s only appropriate that I provide a prediction for what will happen to Twitter in 2011.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting: Twitter’s going to have a steady and boring 2011.
Sure, Twitter will launch new features, and senior execs will continue to step down and new people will take their place, but that’s what happens to any maturing business. Now that Twitter has new funding, has launched its ad platform and has launched a complete redesign, is there an earth-shattering event that could take us by surprise?
I don’t discount it; I just don’t predict there will be one. An IPO makes no sense with the new round of funding. A redesign isn’t necessary. Really, Twitter is focused on its ad platform and will launch features that enhance it. Twitter will slowly continue to grow, but I don’t expect Facebook-like hockey stick growth.
In 2011, Twitter is going to be one of the most boring social media services around. And I know the Twitter team is just fine with that.