STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne. When media mogul Rupert Murdoch paid nearly $600 million to buy MySpace back in 2005, MySpace was the biggest thing in social networking. Now Facebook is taking over. Facebook has an estimated 95 million visitors in the U.S., compared with 65 million for MySpace. NPRs Laura Sydell reports that the numbers don't tell the whole story about the differences in social networking.
LAURA SYDELL: Ask the high school students out in front of this elite private school in San Francisco and theyll tell you MySpace is just so last year.
Unidentified Woman #1: We use Facebook.
Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah.
Unidentified Woman #3: Everybody here uses Facebook.
Unidentified Woman #4: We made the transition.
Unidentified Woman #5: No one uses MySpace.
Unidentified Woman #6: Facebook is very in. MySpace is very out.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SYDELL: Halie Pacheco and Kay Gamble, both 17, and 16-year-old Olivia Block can list a lot of reasons they left MySpace and went to Facebook.
Unidentified Woman #7: Its safer and more high class.
Unidentified Woman #8: Well, and by high class I think she means organized. I don't know. With MySpace there's just, like, a lot of clutter.
SYDELL: The MySpace clutter seems to symbolize something more to these kids. About half a dozen students standing around 16-year-old Nico Kurt all nod as he explains.
Mr. NICO KURT: It seems trashy to me. I mean, like, its starting to be that like - yeah, its like the only people that actually use it are, like, trashy people.
SYDELL: Well, then are millions of those trashy people on MySpace and some of them are on the other side of the city taking an art class at a community gallery called Southern Exposure. Most of these kids here come from lower income families and they are Latino. And they have their own ideas about who uses which social networks.
Mr. DIEGO LUNA: I have friends who are white - white people friends. And then theyre mostly on Facebook. So that's why I use Facebook. And I don't know. I guess my brown people are on MySpace.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SYDELL: Thats 19-year-old Diego Luna. He and 16-year-old Benito Rodriguez say they have both Facebook and MySpace accounts.
Mr. BENITO RODRIGUEZ: Not to be racist or anything, but, yeah, there's more white kids in Facebook.
SYDELL: Danah Boyd has heard a lot of conversations just like this one. Shes a social media researcher for Microsoft whos been talking to teens all over the country. She thinks the online social world is dividing up, like the real world, into neighborhoods.
Ms. DANAH BOYD (Microsoft): The fact is that young people and for the most part adults as well don't really interact online with strangers. They talk to people they already know. And when you have environments in which people are divided by race, theyre divided by class, theyre divided by lifestyle, well, when they go online those are also who theyre going to interact with.
SYDELL: Boyd thinks one of the reasons that so many business analysts are writing off MySpace is because they don't belong to the social groups that use it.
Ms. BOYD: Millions of daily users are still logging in. And its really interesting how many people in very privileged environments simply know not a single one of them.
SYDELL: Boyd believes MySpace is actually in a great place to bring in advertising dollars. She says low income people are more likely to click on ads.
Mr. RAY VALDES (Analyst, Gartner): People who click don't necessarily buy.
SYDELL: Thats Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner who follows social network sites.
Mr. VALDES: You don't want to brand yourself as the network for low-income Hispanics, or low-income, you know, some other segment.
SYDELL: But MySpace also does have a very strong user base among artists who are drawn to its music applications and its tools for decorating home pages. Charlene Li of Altimeter Group says if MySpace wants to compete, it's going to have to evolve.
Ms. CHARLENE LI (Altimeter Group): MySpace has done such a good job of serving their core audience. Their defense is, I think, people like Facebook, the reason why they have not sort of peaked and sort of fallen off is that they have not remained still.
SYDELL: And the kids at that private school don't have any particular loyalty to Facebook. Nico Kurt thinks its just a fad.
Mr. KURT: Teenager generations always like to go from one thing to another. And Facebook is that thing. But I think its going downhill. Yeah.
SYDELL: You think Facebooks going down
Mr. KURT: I think theres going to be a new cool thing sooner or later.
SYDELL: And in case anyone is thinking maybe the next cool thing is Twitter, well, Kurt says Twitter is for old people.
Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
MONTAGNE: And you can let us know whether you prefer Facebook or MySpace or tell us your opinions about anything else by joining our online community at NPR.org.