Friday, May 02, 2008

Softbank, Xiaonei and those social networks

As regular readers will know, I've been tracking the social networking phenomenon (most recently here) and trying to work out what it might mean for the industries we cover.

Some unkind souls have suggested that this is simply a good excuse for me to prowl the seamier nether regions of Facebook during the day. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth!

General conclusion as of this moment: Facebook remains a time sink, good for tracking the antics of family and friends. No real relevance to B2B media and information. The LinkedIn network is impressive although I'm not quite sure about the crowding of new features onto the home page. Plaxo's Pulse is coming fast up in the outside lane, presumably building on that already very large installed base of users who have been keeping their address books up-to-date with Plaxo (about 8 - 10% of the 2,500 names in my Outlook address book).

MySpace was effectively dead for anything other than music business as soon as the teenagers all abandonned it almost on cue when Murdoch bought it.

This is, of course, the English language stuff. China, as always with the Internet, is marching to the beat of its own drum. We were interested then to see Japan's Softbank making a commitment to increase its stake in Oak Pacific Interactive to 40% by 2011. The price tag that's been put on this according to Bloomberg is ¥40 billion (US$385 million).

Oak Pacific's main asset in this transaction is, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. This deal values Xiaonei at just shy of US$1 billion. The Mobinode blog thinks that Microsoft's investment in Facebook which gave that company a $15 billion valuation should be credited. Perhaps Mr. Son sniffs another IPO in the air and would like to repeat the success of his investment in Alibaba.

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