Rupert Murdoch is just about to enter into a rather large economics experiment quantifying the “switching costs” of college students in the social network arena. Reports that Murdoch's My Space is loosing altitude have begun to circulate in the blogosphere. The conventional wisdom is that My Space dominates in the social network race for the same reason that Google dominates in search: they both benefit from a new version of Metcalf's Law. However, if fickle college students find it un-hip to be on My Space because it is clogged with Tweens, they will migrate to other sites with relatively little switching costs. Just as they moved to My Space from Friendster, there is little technological advantage to be had in the social network space, whereas Google's massive numbers combined with its superior search algorithm actually seems to have a technological lead over Yahoo and MSN. My sense from my own students at USC is that Facebook, resticted to students with college (edu.) email addresses may be the beneficiary.
If My Space looses audience, it will be a huge setback to News Corp. Since their main means of media distribution throughout the world is a one-way satellite system in a two-way interactive world, MY Space was the future for Murdoch. Let's see if, coming back to college in the fall, the undergrads stay loyal.