Facebook Profile Redesign Will Coax More Data From Users: An In-Depth Review

Facebook has released a major redesign of the user profile which makes more profile info, photos, and friends immediately visible. A single panel navigation system, image-accompanied Likes, Friendship Page previews, and the ability to tag friends in your work, school, and sports info are also new. While some features have been stripped out, profiles are now much more visually compelling. By increasing the prominence of biographical information and connections, Facebook has found a natural way to get users to share more.

The last profile redesign in mid-2008 merged the wall and activity feed and gave users the content publisher. Facebook has since split the publisher into tabs for different content types, increased the number of ads per page to four, and removed profile boxes and application tabs. The recently launched Friendship Page which displays mutual content and connections of two users, and the conversion of static interests into connections from f8 paved the way for the new design.

Opt-in Rollout

Facebook is currently pushing out the profile redesign through an opt-in system which should diffuse user protests. When visiting the profile of a friend who has upgraded, users are shown an invitation to “Get the New Profile”. Alternatively they can visit the new profile about page where they can view a video or screenshots explaining the changes. A facepile of friends who’ve upgraded provides a social recommendation for switching. Users can click to implement the redesign —  changing their own profile and making the profiles of their friends appear redesigned as well. From there, users are brought to their upgraded profile and given the option to take a tour of the changes. Once a user has upgraded, there doesn’t appear to be way to go back to the the old design.

New Features

Profile Info Summary

The top of a user’s profile shows a Profile Info Summary, which includes what Facebook says are “the kinds of conversation starters you share with people you’ve just met or exchange with old friends as you get reacquainted.” A user’s job position and employer, concentration and university, current city, relationship and with who, languages spoken, hometown, and birthday are all listed front and center.

Clicking the links of schools or workplaces opens the corresponding Community Page, unless it has been claimed and merged into an official Page. This means the Profile Info Summary won’t always translate into increased Page discoverability.

Many of the included characteristics can be targeted through the performance advertising system. It’s therefore in Facebook’s interest for users to provide and keep current this information. Prompts for users to enter absent information and the the increased visibility of these fields to a user and their friends should ensure this. Utility applications, especially recruiting apps such as BranchOut could also benefit from increased profile info accuracy.

This new section emphasizes the more stable elements of a person’s identity. This gives a more thorough understanding a user than the old design which gave more prominence to recent actions taken on Facebook. A user’s latest status update no longer appears at the top of their profile, making it more difficult to determine their current mood or activity.

Recently Tagged Photos

Recently Tagged Photos shows the five most recent photos a user was tagged in. Clicking one of the photos opens the light box view of the tagged photos album. This change makes photos other than a user’s profile picture immediately visible, providing a more balanced, long term look at that person’s identity.

In the tour of the redesign, Facebook stresses in bold that “privacy settings have not changed. Only people you’ve allowed to view photos you’re tagged in will see these photos.”

Users can click an ‘x’ in the top right corner of their own Recently Tagged Photos to hide that photo from the feature. Hidden photos are still visible within albums and the Photos tab. Facebook recently began allowing photo reordering within albums, but not for tagged photos. The Recently Tagged Photos hiding feature gives users more control over the first impression they give visitors to their profiles. Users should be aware that since tagged photos are subject to the uploader and their own privacy settings, their friends might not all see the same five photos.

The user profile picture has also had its width slightly reduced, from 200 pixels wide to 180 pixels wide.

Combined Navigation Panel

The links to navigate between a user’s wall, info, and photos which were previously in the top center of the profile have been moved to a panel below the profile picture. The combined navigation panel does centralize links, but also removes functionality and buries direct links to certain features and off-Facebook sites.

A user’s Questions and Notes, which could be optionally added as profile tabs, are also listed here in the navigation panel. There’s also new link to a dedicated “Friends” page, which replaces the “See All” button and pop up friends list from the old design. The old text links beneath the profile picture to message or a poke a user are now more visible buttons in the top right corner. A “Suggest Friends” button also appear in the top right corner of the profiles of users with few friends.

Gone are sections beneath the profile picture displaying a user’s most recently updated photo albums and shared Links. The About Me section, Likes, and a user’s website URLs have been moved to a new location within the Info navigation link. This decreases the prominence of explicit self expression, and reduces the likelihood that a user’s friends follow their links to blogs or profiles on other web services.

Users could previously highlight their upcoming Events, shared Links, and uploaded Videos by creating profile tabs for those categories. There appears to be no way to view all of a friend’s RSVPs or shared Links in the redesign. The link to a user’s tagged videos that used to be below the profile picture has been removed, and the only way to view these or their other uploaded videos is through links obscured inside the Photos navigation link.

Featured Relationships

Within the Relationships section of the profile editor, users can designate friends lists and Groups as their “Featured Relationships”. Up to three members from each selected list and Group plus ten people from the entire set of Friends appear beneath the combined navigation panel.

Users can create a new list or reorder their Featured Relationships from the profile editor. Friend Lists are private, but any Friend List a user adds to their Featured Relationships can be seen by anyone who can see their total set of friends.

Any Group without the “Secret” privacy setting can be added to Featured Relationships, which could be an interesting way of increasing discoverability of Groups. For instance, I could add my open SF Socialites Group to my Featured Relationships if I wanted people to request to join.

If users edit their romantic relationship status to connect them to a significant other such as their wife, fiancé, or boyfriend, this automatically creates a section a the top of the Featured Relationships chain. The section reads “[type of relationship] [to/with] [significant other's name]“, or “Married to Sarah Bryant” for instance. This relationship status section can not be moved down the pane. By listing relationship status in both the Profile Info Summary and Featured Relationships, this information prominence has been significantly increased, which could prompt more users to confirm their real life romances on Facebook, which in turn helps advertisers target ads and Facebook sort the news feed.

If users add relationships with family members, such as two users confirming that they are brothers, this automatically creates a “Family” section at the bottom of the Featured Relationships pane of the profile. This does not create a traditional Friend List, since users can’t set “Family” as a distribution parameter for status updates or privacy settings, but they can reorder it the same way as other Friends Lists or Groups added to Featured Relationships. Family members were shown as text links at the top of the old Info tab of the profile, so it’s unclear how the added image and relocation to the bottom left of the primary profile view will affect the frequency with which users list family relationships.

Featured Relationships is similar to MySpace’s “Top 8″ feature which lets users show off their best friends. While useful for learning about who are the important people in someone’s life, Featured Relationships could cause drama for users who might be guilted or coerced into adding family members, significant others, or other friends.

Enhanced Profile Info

A user’s profile information can be augmented with descriptions and people they shared those experiences with. For instance, users can list projects they’ve worked on and when, tag friends that also worked on that project, and add descriptions of the projects within their employer info, or list classes they had in college or high school and tag friends who were classmates.

When a user is tagged in the profile info of someone else, the listing they were tagged in automatically appears in their profile and they receive a notification. Similar to photos, tags are opt out, meaning there is potential for users to abuse the feature by creating false tags of their friends. The ability to alter a friend’s work info may aggravate some Facebook users, since there isn’t a privacy control to prevent this. Facebook should consider allowing users to disable friends tagging them in profile info, similar to how Places tags by friends can be disabled.

There are also new “Sports” and “Philosophy” categories in the profile editor. Users can list sports they play, add a description, and tag friends they play with. There are also special sections for adding Likes of sports teams and athletes within Sports, and “People Who Inspire You” within philosophy. Teams, athletes, and people weren’t previously distinguished from the rest of a user’s uncategorized Likes.

The Philosophy and Sports sections are now the most prominent sets of Likes in a user’s profile, appearing above the “Arts & Entertainment” and “Activities and Interests” section. The change significantly improves discoverability for sports and people Pages and Open Graph objects. Some of these new profile info categories will likely become targetable by advertisers. Sporting goods manufacturers and retailers should be eager to aim ads according to what sports users play.

Visual Interests

Likes of certain Page and Open Graph object types now have their links accompanied with pictures in the Interests section of a user’s profile info. One row of five photos is shown for each category, and they can be expanded to show photos of all the Likes in that category. Pages having an attention-grabbing picture is now more important to discoverability.

The order in which the different Page categories appear in profiles has changed. Activities and Interests have been moved from the top of the list of Likes to the bottom, reducing their discoverability. Pages and Open Graph objects without type tags or which don’t fall into one of these eleven categories still appear folded up within a “Show Other Pages” link, and don’t show pictures when unfolded.

Friendship Page Previews

A preview of the Likes and connections a user has in common with a friend is shown at the top of the right sidebar of that friend’s profile. The preview includes a link to the full Friendship Page for the two users, which was located beneath a friend’s profile picture in the old design.

The preview can include up to two photos both users are tagged in, a facepile of up to seven mutual friends, the total number of mutual friends, Groups both users are members of, Events both are attending, and mutual Likes for different categories.

Conclusion

The profile redesign will help users learn more about their friends, project a more balanced impression of themselves, and remember to keep their own information up-to-date. However, the removal of the Events and Links profile sections are unfortunate and don’t seem necessary. Overall, Facebook has succeeded in making profiles more fun and informative to browse.

Pages as a whole will be easier to discover. Celebrities, politicians, sports teams, and athletes will gain the most from the redesign, whereas Activities and Interests such as websites, small businesses, and media outlets have either gained little or are slightly worse off. We’ll track the impact of the redesign on the growth of Pages in these categories over the coming months. Advertisers will have more information to target as users fill out their profiles more completely and discover more Pages.

Facebook has found a way to encourage users to provide valuable information and improve the accuracy of their existing data set. While its unclear exactly what some of the more precise data could be used for, the profile redesign strengthens Facebook’s positions as both a communication medium and a record of its users’ lives.

MySpace’s New Facebook Connection Starts to Grow

Following an initial integration with Facebook at the end of August, where MySpace let users share status updates and other information to Facebook but not the other way around, it introduced a way to share Facebook profile data back to the site in order to build out users’ interests.

That effort is starting to pay off at least a little bit, as our AppData measurement service shows MySpace gaining more Facebook users.

The app had been coasting down to under 500,000 monthly active users by the middle of the month. Then, it started rising when MySpace began apparently testing the new product with users, and started going up more steeply when the feature went live on the 28th — today it’s up to 761,000. That’s not much compared to big new social games on Facebook, but it’s a good sign for MySpace and its “social entertainment” strategy, considering that most third party web measurement show the company continuing to lose users.

And for those wondering about the relatively flat daily active user numbers, the news isn’t necessarily bad for MySpace there, either. DAU counts were down to around 65,000 at the middle of the month, and have since risen up to slightly above 80,000. This likely shows that Facebook status update integration has a small but reliable user group — and a steady line of new people doing the new one-off sync with Facebook to port their data over.

With the new integration, the results wouldn’t show up as Facebook traffic. The News Corp. company is using the Facebook data to friend profiles of celebrities and other figures who a user has already Liked on Facebook. Then it is using that information to share a constant stream of updates from those people into users’ news feeds. This in turn could get more users coming back to MySpace to engage with the musicians, actors, and the demi-celebrities who helped make the site a hit with users over the past decade.

While the traffic numbers are still low, growth is in the right direction. The real test will be how MySpace is able to use the new relationships in order to increase engagement. If third parties start showing the site going back to gaining users, Facebook could be one reason why.

Other social networks, and anyone looking to boost their own social integrations, should be watching to see what they can learn from MySpace’s efforts.

MySpace’s “Mashup with Facebook” Ports Likes to Populate Its Stream

Today, Myspace announced ”Mashup with Facebook” allowing users to port their Facebook Likes to Myspace to “create a personalized stream of entertainment content.” By offering new users signing up through Facebook Connect a way to populate their stream, users are more likely to stay engaged until they can establish friendships on the network. Meanwhile, existing Myspace users can augment their stream. The integration operates under the assumption that while everyone has a Facebook profile with Likes, there is content from these publishers that is unique to Myspace.

At the end of August, Myspace began allowing users to syndicate the content they share to Facebook. One million MySpace users took advantage of the option in the first month, underscoring the interest in deeper integration between the two networks. Last December, Myspace said Facebook Connect would be heavily integrated into the social network in the coming year, and now the site has made good on its promise.

Myspace users will see a large prompt on the right side of the home page allowing them to “Connect with Facebook”. Once a user gives Myspace permission to access their Facebook profile, they’re shown a list of Likes which can be replicated as Myspace friendships with official entities similar to Pages.

After interests have been confirmed, users see a stream of updates from these entities. As well as status updates, photos, and blog posts which can also be found on Facebook, users get Myspace specific content like automatically generated playlists of songs by their favorite musicians. MySpace also begins to suggest friends, events and other preferences based on a user’s Facebook information.

Some claim that these recent integrations signal the end for Myspace, but syndicating content to Facebook is available on Twitter, and Likes can ported to a variety of Facebook Connect sites such as Amazon. Instead, the move indicates that Myspace understands its role in the social network ecosystem. Using Facebook to strengthen its core functionality as a rich content channel between celebrities fans should benefit Myspace’s users, even if at the expense of the company’s pride.

Facebook Connect Appears as Sign-Up Option in MySpace Redesign

As part of its big new site redesign, MySpace has introduced a new Facebook integration that is supposed to let you sign up for MySpace using Facebook Connect. The feature isn’t currently working — you click on the Login with Facebook button, give MySpace extended permissions to access Facebook data, and then nothing happens. But the fact that Connect is here is the latest sign of the News Corp. company’s self-described move away from being a social network to being an entertainment site that relies on its multiple social networks to engage users.

Sources told us last fall that we should expect to see Facebook “everywhere” on MySpace this year, and until now that hadn’t really happened. There was a video application made by a partner in the UK back in January, that happened to use Connect. More significantly, MySpace began letting its users syndicate their status updates to Facebook at the end of this past August — that integration has led to 66,472 daily active users and 490,000 monthly active users as of today, according to our AppData tracking service.

The Facebook Connect option is currently  buried off the main page, within the “Sign up” page; you’ll see it on the right-hand side once you click through.

The details of what we’re seeing: Once you enter your Facebook login information and allow MySpace permission to your data anytime, your email, etc., you don’t seem to be logged into MySpace. We tried different browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Safari — to no avail. Facebook Connecting on MySpace.com logs you into Facebook, but not MySpace, and you still have to manually log into MySpace.

We’ll update this article with more details once the feature works.

Facebook Roundup: Zynga, Lawsuits, Chrome, Taxes, Glitches, Campaigns, Kids and the Navy

Followup on the Story About Public Information Being Leaked – The Wall Street Journal discovered in an investigation that Facebook applications were inadvertently leaking URLs to third-parties that included user identification numbers. The story was overhyped, considering that the data was already publicly accessible, but some members of Congress are interested now, and so are class-action attorneys. The Journal has since faced criticism about withholding a similar story about another News Corp. property, MySpace — following that, it published the story on Friday afternoon.

Facebook Hires Another Chrome Engineer — Facebook hired another Chrome OS developer from Google this week, David Garcia. In June Facebook also hired another Chrome engineer, Matt Papakipos. What might Facebook be doing with all these Chrome employees — building its own browser, perhaps?

Like Google and Eveyrone Else, Facebook Also Using Tax Loopholes — Bloomberg had an interesting article detailing how Google and Facebook are using tax loopholes to save money, similar to nearly every other large company in the

Energy Saving Strategies At Facebook’s Data Center – Last week we wrote about Facebook’s energy saving efforts at its Santa Clara, Calif. data center. This week Facebook’s Engineering team shares many more details.

Facebook’s Summer of Code Projects – Facebook Engineering wrote a note this week about the company’s participation in Google’s Summer of Code this year. The event involves students spending a summer coding for an open source or free project; Facebook invited a few students to work on projects related to HBase, HipHop for PHP, Scribe, Three20 and XHP. More at the link.

Shoutlet Launches Management PlatformShoutlet introduced its new Social Customer Relationship Management platform this week, which helps companies monitor their different social media platforms. Some particulars from a press release: assign internal tasks to respond to real-time comments, breakdown Likes to better target fans and analyze social media metrics.

Social Media Poll Shows Teens Are Safe – Web privacy firm Truste conducted a survey of 2,000 teens and parents asking them about privacy and social networking. Turns out most teens are “doing the right things” and parents are monitoring them.

U.S. Navy Posts Social Media Handbook – The U.S. Navy Command posted an interesting handbook on its SlideShare account this week: the official Social Media Handbook.

Facebook All Over Campaign Season – Facebook has used by candidates more heavily than ever this electoral season and the company recently released a “Campaign 2010 Races to Watch” guide. The guide details races in different states that are contentious, with data to match.

Facebook Updates Mobile Capabilities – The Facebook Engineering team wrote a note this week about its efforts to update its mobile capabilities.

Announcing Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011 – Coming January 25th in San Francisco

January 25th | San Francisco

Inside Network is proud to announce our second conference on the future of monetization on social platforms: Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011, exploring the key uncertainties and opportunities in social games and applications in 2011, happening January 25th in San Francisco.

Social applications first emerged in 2007, and are today maturing into a global media ecosystem. With the launch of the Facebook Platform, followed by platforms from MySpace and other social networks, developers worldwide could leverage the social graph to create new kinds of social experiences never before possible.

Now, three and a half years later, what started out as sheep throwing and vampire biting has quickly become a profitable billion-dollar industry, punctuated by numerous major acquisitions by the world’s leading media companies and developers. But now, new challenges are emerging, affecting big players and new entrants alike.

Inside Social Apps will investigate the latest trends and challenges for social applications, and look at what’s to come for developers throughout the space – including the growth of virtual goods and social applications on mobile devices.

What are the biggest uncertainties and opportunities facing the future of social games and applications in 2011, and who is leading the way?

Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011 – January 25th in San Francisco

Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011 takes place January 25th, 2011 at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, and brings together the world’s leading entrepreneurs to weigh in on the future of social app and game monetization.

Inside Social Apps will be a one-day summit led by Inside Network’s Eric Eldon and Justin Smith, and will take in-depth investigative approach to the day’s discussions. At Inside Social Apps, Inside Network will work alongside founders and executives of the top social networking, social gaming, mobile social gaming, payments, and virtual goods infrastructure companies to analyze the most important issues affecting the industry. Inside Social Apps is geared towards developers on Facebook, iPhone, Android, and emerging online social platforms.

Inside Social Apps will be a content-rich day of critical discussion, followed by an evening and nighttime of casual networking.

Who Is Speaking?

We’re excited and honored to announce the following 15 confirmed speakers at Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011:

  • Atul Bagga, VP Equity Research, Games, ThinkEquity
  • Bill Gossman, CEO, hi5
  • Bret Taylor, CTO, Facebook
  • Deborah Liu, Commerce Product Marketing, Facebook
  • Eric Chu, Group Manager, Android Platform, Google
  • Jason Oberfest, VP Social Apps, ngmoco:) (now part of DeNA)
  • Kevin Chou, Co-founder and CEO, Kabam
  • Manu Rekhi, GM Games, Content, and Platform, MySpace
  • Peter Relan, Executive Chairman, CrowdStar
  • Raph Koster, Former President, Metaplace; VP Creative Design, Playdom (now part of Disney)
  • Rex Ng, Co-founder and CEO, 6waves
  • Rick Thompson, Co-founder, Playdom (now part of Disney), and Investor
  • Sean Ryan, EVP and GM Games, News Corporation
  • Sebastien de Halleux, Co-founder and COO, Playfish (now part of Electronic Arts)
  • Vish Makhijani, SVP Business Operations, Zynga
  • Eric Eldon, Editor, Inside Network
  • Justin Smith, Founder, Inside Network

A full agenda will be announced shortly. Keep an eye on InsideSocialApps.com for more information.

Register Now


A limited set of 20 “early announcement” tickets is now available at a special announcement price of $149. This price will change when these first 20 tickets are sold out. Space will be very limited, so we encourage you to register early.

From all of us at Inside Network, we hope to see you on January 25th in San Francisco!

Facebook Roundup: Nielsen, Ping, Zuckerberg, Facebook Phone, Data, Microsoft, Security and India

Facebook, Apple Will Work on PingFacebook CTO Bret Taylor said this week that, eventually, the company will figure out a way to work with Apple on its social music network Ping, even though the companies have failed to work out a deal to date.

$100M Donation in Facebook Shares – We wrote last week about a $100 million donation Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made to the school system in Newark, New Jersey but the details of exactly how he’ll pony up the money were still fuzzy. The New York Times reports that Zuckerberg is going to donate $100 million worth of Facebook shares to a foundation he started, Startup: Education, which will sell the shares in the secondary market. Details are still fuzzy, though, such as how much the shares are worth and whether it will mean a Facebook IPO sooner than anticipated.

More Facebook Phone Info – Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on the Facebook phone this week. We wrote about it previously. Caroline McCarthy wrote about Sandberg’s comments, “We want to make Facebook available everywhere on every device. That’s actually complicated in a world of so many cell phones, so many mobile operators.” McCarthy points out that this means Facebook is actively talking to carriers and phone manufacturers, perhaps trying to make more than one phone. More at the link.

‘The Social Network’ Advertising on MySpace – Apparently advertising for the new Facebook drama “The Social Network” has been pretty heavy on MySpace. The ads have also appeared on major newspaper websites like The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The ones on MySpace kind of take the circuitous route to getting to Facebook, though, Ryan Spoon wrote that the Facebook-like ads take you to the movie’s web site and then list the Facebook share option last. The movie opens in the US today.

All About Facebook’s Data Centers - Data Knowledge Center put together a pretty comprehensive FAQ about Facebook’s data centers. Some tid bits include: 690 billion page views each month, 9.5% of all Internet traffic, 9 data centers in the U.S. (in the Bay Area and Virginia). More at the link.

Microsoft Calls Facebook ‘A Competitor’ – Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told The Seattle Times this week that he considers Facebook a “competitor” — despite a growing partnership with the social network. To quote, “We partner with Facebook, but we also compete in some dimensions with them.”

Facebook Security Details – Facebook’s Anti-Malware team leader Nick Bilogorskiy shared some details about the company’s fight against cybercrime. A few of note: people spend 23 billion minutes on Facebook daily and Koobface worm hackers made $35,000 a week during their 2009 scam.

What’s Legally Discoverable on Facebook? - Interesting post on what information is discoverable, or usable as evidence for lawsuits, on Facebook. Eric Goldman writes about a recent case which granted access to a woman’s non-public Facebook posts to the opposing counsel — including information she had deleted.

Gawker’s Denton: Facebook Beats Twitter – Nick Denton said this week that Facebook is the best social network to drive news traffic for his Gawker empire. Twitter he called a “closed, elite audience” that wasn’t “mainstream enough.” Facebook has set some of Gawkers’ posts up five-fold, inspiring him to toy with the idea of a Facebook edition.

U.S. Govt Wants Facebook Info – The New York Times reported this week that the Obama Administration is going after the ability to tap into encrypted mobile and email systems. This would include social networks like Facebook.

Facebook in India – Facebook opened its India offices in Hyderabad recently and Wildfire is behind a contest to celebrate its launch. The winner of the contest will paint a mural on the wall of the office, and a $2,000 prize; artists have until Oct. 22 to submit samples of their work. In other Facebook/India news, Facebook has now added location-based targeting to its Facebook ads in India.

ShopIgniter Readies for Black Friday – It may not be November yet, but ShopIgniter is starting its Black Friday prep early. The company released a Facebook holidays store to allow companies to try to push more merchandise via social media during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping seasons. The package allows companies to promote merchandise and allows for social sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Pricing starts at several hundred dollars monthly.

Columbia’s Would-Be Facebook – An interesting tale of the would-be Facebook of Columbia University: Campus Network. The site started before Facebook, but fizzled out as Facebook grew.

Nielsen to Use Facebook in Ad MeasurementNielsen has officially begun to incorporate Facebook data into its audience and advertising measurements. The new system combines TV and online panel data, anonymous demographic information and Nielsen will work with several companies at once for its final product (the story first broke the previous week). The measurements start in the U.S., but will eventually expand to the rest of the world, according to a company press release.

Announcing Inside Virtual Goods: Tracking the US Virtual Goods Market 2010 – 2011

With an up-to-$750 million acquisition of Playdom by Disney, an up-to-$400 million acquisition of Playfish by Electronic Arts, the acquisition of Tapulous by Disney, and hundreds of millions of dollars in venture investments, virtual goods are impacting businesses across the media landscape. Virtual goods, and the companies that create them, may be bringing the largest disruption entertainment, communication, and e-commerce infrastructure businesses have seen in years.

Inside Network is proud to announce a new original research report by Justin Smith and Charles Hudson that presents a comprehensive examination of the size and future of the virtual goods market in the United States, entitled Inside Virtual Goods: The US Virtual Goods Market 2010 – 2011. This is Inside Network’s second annual edition of the US Virtual Good Market report. It will be released on September 28, but is available for discount pre-order now.

Where will the virtual goods market go in 2011 and what are the biggest opportunities left unclaimed? How will existing players fare as Facebook continues to reshape the social gaming landscape, and larger and more sophisticated players enter the market? Inside Virtual Goods: The US Virtual Goods Market 2010 – 2011 provides deeper insight into monetization, development, and the key questions facing the space in 2011 than you’ll find anywhere else.

Get the Annual Membership
Get Annual Membership (Includes Report + 3 Additional Quarterly Issues): $2,495 $1,995 USD*
OR Buy Single Report: $995 $795 USD*
* Pre-order discount ends September 27, 2010. All pre-ordered reports will be delivered on September 28, 2010.

About the Report

Inside Virtual Goods is a new report researched and created specifically for entrepreneurs, investors, and analysts interested in the growth of this exciting new category of online commerce that is fueling the growth of games-as-a-service businesses. During a research phase spanning the last few months, co-authors Justin Smith and Charles Hudson have spoken with dozens of executives and entrepreneurs from all parts of the ecosystem in order to form what we believe are the most detailed estimates, analyses, and predictions for 2010 and 2011.

We focused and organized the report around the following areas:

  1. Social Networks, Applications, and Games - The explosion of the virtual goods market on social networks is one of the biggest stories of 2010. We delve deeply into the trends, stats, key players, opportunities, and challenges facing the space this year and next.
  2. Mobile Applications and Games – Mobile application developers that have been early adopters of the free-to-play model are now seeing significant growth in 2010. Our study breaks down the key opportunities and challenges facing this emerging space going into 2011.
  3. Casual MMOs and Virtual Worlds - Virtual worlds and casual MMOs continue to grow as a meaningful share of the virtual goods opportunity in the United States. Our study breaks down the key drivers for success in this segment, trends in monetization and engagement, and the prospects for the future.
  4. Hardcore MMOs and Free-to-Play Online Games – Developers in the MMO / MMORPG space have been among the earliest adopters of the free-to-play model. We explore why free-to-play MMOs are succeeding, revenue and user trends, and the key issues facing this space as we head into 2011.
  5. Emerging Areas: Console Games and Subscription MMOs – As the virtual goods business model becomes more well understood, it is beginning to show up in new and interesting areas of the games and entertainment landscape. We highlight a few of the more promising areas where virtual goods are emerging as a promising opportunity.

Each section contains:

  1. A brief history on the evolution and growth of this space in the US, including a description of key players.
  2. Estimates on the size of the US virtual goods market in 2010 in that area.
  3. A diagnosis of the key opportunities and issues facing the growth of that space, including our outlook and projections for 2011.

In addition, prior to delving more deeply into each market segment, we’ve provided an overview of the emerging payments ecosystem that is growing to serve these new businesses. Traditional e-commerce infrastructure providers only offer a partial solution, and the virtual goods payments layer is currently in a major state of flux. In the report, we describe the variety of solutions that have been brought to market to date, and the key challenges facing the industry from a payments perspective as a whole.

For more details, check out the full table of contents below.

The annual membership, which includes the report and three additional quarterly updates, is USD $2,495. Alternatively, you can obtain just this report for USD $995.

The annual subscription brings you a total of four comprehensive reports comprising months of original research. Recent reports have covered:

  1. The Future of Social Gaming. Social games make up over half of the US virtual goods market. This report provided detailed coverage of exactly how this industry has managed to thrive, who its most valuable players are, and deeper insight into monetization, development, and customer acquisition than you’ll find anywhere else..
  2. The Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social Gaming Audience. Who are the millions of users whose time, money, and engagement have made social games into household names and their developers into technology industry celebrities? This report presented the only independent, original research into user profiles, behaviors, and attitudes toward social games and virtual goods.

Although the report will not be released until Tuesday, September 28, we are offering a special pre-order discount for those who purchase now. The pre-order price of US $795 for this report or US $1,995 for a one-year subscription is now available until September 27.

We are looking forward to continuing to cover the evolution of the space over the coming year. We look forward to hearing from you!

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

  • How We Got Here: A Brief History of Virtual Goods Worldwide
  • Defining Terms
    • Registered users
    • Active users
    • Average revenue per user (ARPU)
    • Average revenue per paying user (ARPPU)
    • How do different developers manage their businesses?
  • Growing Virtual Goods Markets in the US
    • Social Networks, Applications, and Games
    • Casual MMOs and Virtual Worlds
    • Hardcore MMOs and Free to Play Games
    • Mobile Applications and Games
    • Emerging Areas: Consoles, Subscription MMOs
  • Methodology

2. The Virtual Goods Payments Ecosystem: An Overview

  • Large Payment Platforms
  • Mobile Payment Providers
  • Offer Providers
  • Direct Payments vs Offers
  • Pre-paid Cards
  • The Arrival of Facebook Credits
  • New Payment Providers
  • Managing Fraud
  • Related Companies

3. Social Networks, Applications, and Games

  • Introduction
    • The Global Rise of Facebook
    • The Virtual Currency Payment Ecosystem Explosion – and Migration to Facebook Credits
    • Increased Optimization for Virtual Goods
  • Social Networking Platforms Today
    • Facebook
    • MySpace
    • Twitter
    • Google
    • Others
  • Significant Changes to Facebook Platform Dynamics in 2010
    • Distribution & Engagement
    • Monetization
  • Social Application and Game Genres: How Do They Perform?
    • Role Playing Games and “Hardcore” Mini-MMOs
    • Simulation and City Building Games
    • Pet Games
    • Poker Games
    • Gifting Apps
    • Arcade Games
  • Who’s Buying Virtual Goods?
    • Gender Breakdown
    • Age Breakdown
    • Geographic Breakdown
  • How Are They Spending Money?
    • Item Type Breakdown
    • Payment Method Breakdown
  • Market Size Estimate
    • Total Number of Monthly Paying Users
    • Total ARPPU Per Month
    • Total US Virtual Goods Revenues from Social Networks in 2010
    • A Quick Look at Revenues for Top Social Game Developers
  • 2011 Outlook
    • Growth Rate
    • Major Risks that Could Hamper Growth
  • Leading Companies

4. Casual MMOs and Virtual Worlds

  • Introduction
  • Demographic Breakdown
    • Gender
    • Age
  • Payments
  • Analyzing the Market Opportunity
    • ARPU
    • ARPPU
    • Market Size Estimate
  • 2011 Outlook
    • Growth Rate
    • Key Challenges
  • Leading Companies

5. Free to Play MMOs / Hardcore Games

  • Introduction
    • History of free to play MMOs
    • Emergence of the free to play MMO market opportunity in the US
    • Major genres for free-to-play MMOs and hardcore games
  • Analyzing the Market Opportunity
    • Total Player Base
    • ARPU
    • ARPPU
    • Payment methods
  • 2011 Outlook
  • Leading Companies

6. Mobile Applications and Games

  • Introduction
    • History of virtual goods model in US
    • Major genres for free-to-play iPhone apps and games
  • Analyzing the Market Opportunity
    • Total Player Base
    • ARPU
    • ARPPU
    • Payment methods
  • 2011 Outlook
  • Leading Companies

7. Emerging Areas

  • Console Games
  • Subscription MMOs

8. Conclusion

  • Overview: 2010 Market Estimates
  • Looking Ahead: 2011

9. Appendix: Company Index

About the Authors

charles-hudson-headshotCharles Hudson

Former VP Business Development, Serious Business & Host, Virtual Goods Summit

Charles Hudson is the former VP of Business Development for Serious Business, a leading social games developer on the Facebook platform. In addition to his work at Serious Business, Charles Hudson organizes two of the leading conferences in the social gaming and free-to-play games industries, the Social Gaming Summit and Virtual Goods Summit.

Prior to Serious Business, he was formerly the Sr. Director for Business Development at Gaia Interactive, a leading online hangout for teens. Prior to Gaia, Charles worked in New Business Development at Google and focused on new partnership opportunities for early-stage products in the advertising, mobile, and e-commerce markets. Prior to joining Google, he was a Product Manager for IronPort Systems, a leading provider of anti-spam hardware appliances that was acquired by Cisco Systems for $830 million in 2007. Charles holds an MBA and BA from Stanford University.

justin-smith-headshotJustin Smith

Founder, Inside Network

Justin Smith is the founder of Inside Network, the first company dedicated to providing news and market research to the Facebook platform and social gaming ecosystem. Justin leads Inside Network’s Inside Virtual Goods and AppData research and data services, and serves as co-editor of Inside Facebook and Inside Social Games.

Prior to Inside Network, he was formerly Head of Product at Watercooler, one of the leading application and game developers on the Facebook Platform. Prior to Watercooler, Justin was an early employee at Xfire, the largest social utility for gamers, which was sold to Viacom in 2006. Justin holds a degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University.

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This Week’s Headlines on Inside Social Games

ISG LogoCheck out the top headlines and insights this week from Inside Social Games – tracking all the latest developments at the intersection of games and social platforms.

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

MySpace Now Letting Users Syndicate Status Updates to Facebook

After having launched integrations with Twitter and other sites, MySpace has launched a new form of Facebook integration today. Now, it’s easy for MySpace users to syndicate their status updates on Facebook as well. The UI is available to users in a drop-down on MySpace’s status publisher, beneath the Twitter syndication feature that MySpace introduced last year.

As part of this, MySpace is also asking users for extended permissions for publishing to their walls — but is is also asking for access to their Photos and Videos on Facebook, and their Facebook data when they’re not using the application. In other words, MySpace is asking for permission to access lots of valuable social data from Facebook, but we don’t yet know how it might use that data in its products.

We should note that Facebook and MySpace have been talking about some sort of deal since last fall, as we and others were hearing. Then-chief executive Owen Van Natta told The Telegraph that MySpace saw value in Facebook for its content plans. “We are in talks with Facebook, and other sites, about how we could partner with them. Partnerships are going to be a big part of our strategy moving forward as a lot of value can be derived from them. Facebook is about core communications with your friendship network, whereas MySpace is about congregating around popular content with people who share your interests.”

The MySpace blog post on the matters has that same theme today: “Sync with Facebook allows users to keep their friends on Facebook up to date on everything, including: sharing songs, latest photos, fun game apps, and more.” Perhaps MySpace will attract some avid Facebook social gamers through news feed updates?

The integration could bring new usage scenarios to MySpace, but also reinforces the need for MySpace to provide a differentiated social service in order to lure users away. Van Natta is now at Zynga, the leading social gaming developer on Facebook and MySpace’s platforms; Mike Jones is now CEO at MySpace, apparently pushing the current integration forward – and MySpace still has considerable traffic.

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