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Social Networking Connects for Businesses

Since 2002, social networking companies have been generating buzz, but not much income. Or if they do, they don't want to talk about it.

Despite 24 million members and 9 million unique visitors a month, Friendster's answer to the question "Are you profitable?" is "We're privately held and don't share any financial info."

Orkut, Google's social networking service, was launched in January 2002, but has yet to take off. Or if it has, Google doesn't want to talk about it.

"We don't disclose the exact number of users, but it's safe to say there are millions of users worldwide," Google spokesperson Sonya Boralv writes in an E-mail. "To date we have been focused on improving the service and user experience and have not monetized the product."

The value provided by social networking sites can be vague--helping members stay connected with friends or participate in an online community--or specific--helping members conduct investment research or find a job or a sales lead.

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