Facebook User Trends

Social Networking, The Interwebs No Comments »

As a regular post topic on The Shelf Facebook has again been hitting the headlines this week, this time with a detailed study of visitor statistics and user trends that I found interesting.

After August 2007 statistics were released Facebook was ranked third in terms of pageviews, and furthermore is claimed to be winning users from Myspace. In August Facebook logged 26 million visits and being that Facebook allows only restricted activity without a membership, 22 million of these visits were new applicants. I personally wonder whether this huge influx of new members is as a direct result of Facebook opening up member profiles to Google, meaning anyone can Google a friend and find their Facebook profile in Google search results.

User trends of Myspace and Facebook (as the two big social networking players) are already thought to be significantly different. Myspace users are thought to be more tech savvy being able to control basic elements of their web pages, whilst Facebook users are thought more professional, using the site much as an extended e mail. So can Facebook actually be attracting visitors form its competitor when they have such different needs.

Of the 22 million visits to Facebook, 21 million spend their time viewing their own profiles or profiles of friends. Beyond this 14 million interacted with Facebook applications which themselves are responsible for capturing more time per session than any other activity on the site. 16 million visitors browsed photos, of which 150 were viewed on average per user over the month. 80k poked other people, an action on each user’s profile.

Interestingly Facebook’s Marketplace was used by 1.3 million visitors with an average of 2.27 minutes per visit, whilst group activity and networks browsing accounted for 8 million and 5 million visits respectively.

Reading these statistics it does seem Facebook Applications and picture sharing account for the large majority of user’s time, and some reports state that applications alone account for 37% of Facebook’s growth. This will have direct competition from Google’s upcoming project involving the building applications for all social networking sites in the OpenSocial partnership, of which Facebook is the only big player no to be involved. It will be interesting to see if this move slows Facebook’s growth at all in the future.

Regardless of future developments and without all the hype of Facebook’s astonishing growth rate, it is however important to remember that currently Facebook is only where Myspace was two years ago in terms of total traffic. Since its launch it has come on leaps and bounds but still has a way to go to become top social networking dog.

IRGC Sanctions and UN Approval

Politics No Comments »

Following on from Tuesday’s post exploring the sanctions currently imposed on Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps and the message they are intended to send, The Shelf examines whether that message is correctly being conveyed and the stance the international community it taking on the matter. First we take a closer look at the IRGC.

Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps were established in 1979 in order to protect the country’s Islamic system. An extremely loyal group, they were also seen to act as a counterweight for the regular armed forces, and currently the IRGC is a major military, political and economic force within Iran. By focusing on the IRGC it was hoped the US could single headedly strangle Iran’s economy, and isolate much of the countries economic infrastructure from the rest of the world.

The IRGC is in fact 125,000 strong, has its own naval and air force units, and is responsible for overseeing Iran’s strategic weapons. The IRGC also has a heavy political influence with dozens of ex-guards as MPs in Iran’s government, and president Ahmadinejad is himself a former member. Furthermore by adding the IRGC to the Americas list of terror, the IRGC have become the first part of a sovereign country’s military to be categorised as a supporter of terror.

At a first glance the IRGC looks a little more than a terror group? Washington however thinks differently, and some critics have suggested that by adding the IRGC to Americas list of terror the US is risking her international credibility. As a result is seems whilst American sanctions remian in place there are plenty other countries at this point willing to trade with Iran in place of the US. America has quickly come to realise that for a course of economic sanctions to have the desired effect on the IRGC, she needs the backing of the international community.

In the case of Iran and the IRGC, even if America got international backing through EU approval and China and Russia do not veto any UN sanctions resolution, no resolution will be effective unless Russia, China and the EU choose to enforce those sanctions fully as a collective force. For that to happen sanction objectives must be widely shared both by Iran’s neighbours and trading partners.

So where does the UN stand in regard to UN backed sanctions on Iran?

Although the UN atomic watchdog has recently stated that it was unable to confirm Iran’s nuclear intentions were entirely peaceful, it refuses to use the threat of sanctions deeming them as counterproductive at this point in time.

China too has already expressed its concerns about any UN backed sanctions on Iran and prefers the route of increased dialogue. Russia has taken a similar stance to china, even offering to act as a go between by enriching Iranian nuclear fuel for civilian use within Russia.

It seems that although the US is increasing pressure on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, currently member states are not shifting from the view that increased dialogue is the preferred course of action.

In the past UN backed sanctions have been imposed upon governments that have violated international law with such actions as invading another countries territory. In this instance it seems claims regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions alone may not be enough to get the UN’s backing, especially being that India and Pakistan got away with the same thing with apparent US blessing. It also comes at a time when the credibility of US intelligence agencies are still recovering from inaccurate reports in the run up to the Iraq II war.

If Iran were to test a nuclear bomb then the stakes may change, and although the common goal of preventing Iran going nuclear is shared, it seems the UN sees Iran’s increased cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as enough for now (or until November 30th at least).

It seems very much a possibly that if America cannot achieve her goals through economic sanctions which would require UN support, that George Bush is not willing to leave office without a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This opens the gate for a strike on Iran as early as 2008, in the event of which Iran has promised to retaliate, resulting in a new conflict zone in the Middle East.

Sanctions on Iran : A Political Message

Politics No Comments »

Recently an increasing number of news articles have been focusing around the evolving stance of the US against Iran. With American sanctions already in place, the US is now increasingly seeking international backing against what she considers a growing threat. But what success are existing US sanctions on Iran having, and what impacts are additional internationally backed sanctions intended to have? The Shelf Investigates.

The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran are in response to the increasingly “threatening behaviour of the Iranians” in regard to a growing nuclear weapons programme. In October this year the US imposed further sanctions to include the IRGC (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps), a group that is estimated to control around a third of the Iranian economy. By imposing sanctions on the IRGC America hopes to have significant enough impact on the countries economy in the hope of bringing Iran back into line.

As well as concerns over a growing nuclear program the US has raised concerns over Iranian influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, blaming the IRGC directly for training insurgents with the intentions of destabilising these countries and undermining American developments.

Economic sanctions on the Iranians by the Americans are not a new development, a variety of which have been in place since 1979. It was in 2003 however that the US took existing sanctions a step further by reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, subsequently seeking the backing of the international community.

To understand the intended impacts of sanctions we must first look at what different sanctions involve. In a world where dialogue is becoming increasing important in disputes sanctions have become a weapon in themselves, albeit on an economic scale. For the US particularly sanctions have become an important means in dealing with international disputes with nations she deems as rouge states. There are two different sanctions that are used to send varying political messages to opponents, trade sanctions and economic sanctions.

Trade sanctions are intended to eliminate basic privileges that the US grants to preferred trading partners. Trade sanctions are applied to countries who’s activities include closing off their markets or selling arms to hostile regimes. Such actions have in the past been applied by the US to both China and Pakistan, and are intended to bring a countries behaviour into line without alienating them form the international community.

Economic sanctions are a more drastic step and could be seen as the next course of action if the offending country did not pull into line once trade sanctions had been applied. Economic sanctions have the full intention of alienating the country they are imposed upon, and can include trade embargos, bans on cash transfers from US institutions, and additional measures that prevent access to US assets. Economic sanctions are intended to cripple a countries economy and are deemed a step shy of war.

With the clear intention of alienating Iran and strangling her economy economic sanction were placed on Iran by America. By reporting Iran to the UN American has however signalled that she also realises she needs the backing of the international community for any such action to be successful.

Tomorrow The Shelf will look more closely at the IRGC and the current stance of the international community on economic sanctions against them, as well and possible consequences that could lay ahead if American cannot achieve her goal of getting international backing.

Virtual Thief Charged

The Interwebs No Comments »

Earlier this month the world saw yet another first, and although not as ground breaking as a moon landing or the first assent of Everest, the first arrest for a virtual theft still made headline news.

The case involved Dutch police arresting five teenagers in total for stealing furniture from the popular networking website Habbo Hotel, a site which is targeted towards youngsters. One of the teenagers, a 17 year old from Amsterdam, was charged with computer fraud and stealing as a result of the theft.

The teenager was charged with stealing £2,800 worth of virtual furniture, furniture that although only existing as images within the game was bought with real money. On the grounds that this furniture was said to hold a monetary value, its removal without permission constituted theft.

The group of teenagers that was involved in the case had got hold of the furniture by conning fellow uses out of login details and then moving the furniture to their own hotel rooms within the game.

Habbo Hotel was launched by Sulake, a company based in Finland seven years ago. It now has 80 million registered users spanning 31 countries boasting a turnover of £31 million.

In an example of other virtual theft mentioned on the BBC a Chinese gamer in 2005 was stabbed to death in a similar case involving a ‘dragon sabre’, a sword used within the game.

These cases certainly demonstrates how the internet is being subjected to increasing levels of crime on different levels, and certainly sends out a warning to people who spend money within hugely popular virtual environments such as Habbo. I think these arrests, and the charges brought against one of the individuals act as a clear warning to virtual thieves, and with increased methods of policing may boost the confidence of players within virtual environments in the future.

Fastest Growing Websites

Social Networking, The Interwebs No Comments »

I read a nice post the other day that detailed the top 50 websites ranked by unique visitors in September 2007. Interesting enough five of the top ten gainers throughout September 2007 were content sharing sites Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, Wikipedia and Digg.

As it has been mentioned in a series of articles on The Shelf, a special note goes to Facebook whose traffic increased by 14.6 million visits placing it the 22nd most popular site on unique visits. In the same period Myspace traffic also increased by 10.2 million visits placing the social network site in sixth spot, but the growth of Facebook will certainly challenge its position as the most popular social networking site in the future. Interestingly Facebook visitors on average spend twice as long on the site as their Facebook counterparts as well.

AdultFriendFinder has also shown signs of continued growth with nearly 24 million unique visitors, an increase of 8.8M this year putting it in 22nd place. In a similar sector Fling has started to catch up quickly gaining a whopping 17.4 million visitors in the past 12 months to reach 18.7 million unique visitors in September and lying in 31st place.

Another mention should go to Digg, the social bookmarking site whose growth surpassed that of Facebook and recorded the fifth largest growth rate of unique visitors, ahead of Google.

Reduced unique visits were recorded to only eight of the existing top 50 domains with Amazon controlled IMDB and Amazon itself among the losers. These sites were the 40th and 12th most visited sites respectively. In a similar vein Microsoft recorded a reduction in unique visits to both passport.net and MSN.com, 39th and 4th, although this traffic can be reflected in the increased 10.2 million visitors to live.com which moved up to the 5th most visited site.
Top Growth RatesDeclining Sites
*graphs from blog.compete.com
For the complete list of top 50 sites see The Shelf Referrences

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