Vertical search is to general search as niche networks are to MySpace.
Just as the success of general web search has given birth to numerous vertical engines offering “more depth” or “better leads” than general search, the success of MySpace and Facebook will yield a crop of niche search engines built around life stage or interest or affinity. They’re already here in some sense: Moms/parents, ethnic or religious/cultural groups, cranky oldsters and so on.
Interestingly, Facebook is moving from a kind of vertical network (college students) to a general interest one. And Ning allows anyone to create a social network around any subject or interest.
Yahoo! already makes community part of all its vertical sites. And any company launching today would be stupid not to have a community strategy.
Ultimately social networks are are contextually or demographically targeted ad networks — or both. But people aren’t going to create profiles again and again and invest time in more than two or three (at most) social sites. People will comment and participate (a la Topix discussion forums or ratings/reviews) broadly in lots of sites as long as the barriers are low. This is just the culture of the Internet in operation.
But the deep, daily engagement that the term “social network” implies is going to be the province of only a select, successful few. Call it “social network fatigue.”
Here’s yet another mom social network.