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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 01:56 GMT
Should you get paid to Facebook?
Stephanie Busari
BBC News

Man surfing in a park
More and more people are logging on to social networking sites
Social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace have been among the most successful business ventures of recent years.

Facebook alone has 50 million members worldwide and is now valued at 7.5bn.

Inevitably, imitators have sprung up with variations on the theme, eager to tap into this lucrative market.

One such company is American networking site Yuwie.com, whose unique selling point is that it promises to "share wealth" with its members.

In what could be the first example of social networking meeting e-commerce, Yuwie's founder Korry Rogers says he will give members more than half of the site's advertising revenue - just for logging on and inviting their friends.

"The whole goal of Yuwie is for people to get paid for what they're doing already," he told the BBC News website.

I want people to join because it's a good networking site not because I'm paying them
Korry Rogers
Yuwie founder

Mr Rogers, 33, says some of Yuwie's members are earning between 200 and 250 a month, although payments "fluctuate".

"Yuwie users get paid every time they log on, send a message, upload a picture or invite someone to join."

"If someone only refers three of their friends, who refer three of their friends through 10 levels, that one person will collect a percentage of advertising revenues from about 88,000 end-users, which could be about $8,800 [4,427] per month for that person."

Pyramid scheme

Some say this is little more than a technological version of the reviled pyramid scheme.

However, Mr Rogers, a web designer from Oklahoma, disputes this because he says he does not charge his members, unlike traditional pyramid schemes.

As soon as you start paying people to join, then you have people manipulating search engines or paying someone to view their page.
Steve Prentice
Technology analyst

He insists he does not want people to join Yuwie just to make money.

"I want people to join because it's a good networking site not because I'm paying them.

"I just think it's a cool idea to pay the users who are providing all the content," he says.

The site is certainly proving popular for those who do not mind lots of pop-ups and flashy graphics.

Yuwie users apparently love adverts, though, because "they know they will share in the revenue".

Since launching in July, Yuwie already has 344,444 registered members, with nearly 50,000 joining in December alone.

Yuwie is now ranked among one of the top 2,500 websites in the world, according to alexa.com, which tracks web traffic.

So can we really make money from the details that we share so freely at the moment?

Yuwie logo
Yuwie pays users to invite friends, log on and send messages
And is this a logical evolution for social networking sites, who have made enormous strides this year, but may struggle to keep the momentum next year?

Analyst Steve Prentice, chief researcher at technology consultants Gartner's, thinks not.

He cites the example of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was recently criticised after introducing an unpopular advertising system, Beacon, which "shares'' details of users' purchases on partner websites.

Mr Prentice says the majority of users of social networking sites are not motivated by a desire to make money but to connect with and make new friends.

He says: "It seems to be counter to the philosophy of these social sites. They are about belonging and reflecting an individual's community.

"The idea of making what is, essentially, a few fractions of a cent out of your friends would sit uncomfortably.

"My guess is that people would react quite angrily because they value their privacy very highly.

"There are a lot of individuals on social networking sites who have an antipathy towards commercial enterprise and it's possible to get it very badly wrong.

"People can migrate very quickly to a site but can vote with their virtual feet very quickly, if a site is against their ethos."

'Potential abuse'

Mr Prentice also warns potential users to remember that, once money starts changing hands, they could attract the attention of Inland Revenue, FSA and other regulatory bodies.

More importantly, he believes sites like Yuwie could quickly become "a non-reputable business model" because of the "potential" to abuse the system.

"As soon as you have a situation where you are paying people to join, then you have potential abuse, with people manipulating search engines or paying someone to view their page.

"Then problems might arise regarding spamming and it very quickly becomes a non- reputable business model," he says.

Mr Rogers admits Yuwie has suffered in the past from people using scripts and programmes to falsely inflate the number of page views they got.

He insists it now has strict measures in place to stop people abusing the page view system.

Mr Prentice says it is also important to make a distinction from sites such as You Tube and Revver, which recently announced they would financially compensate users who produce and upload content.

"Cases like You Tube are different as they are about creation.

"You Tube is going to make money out of the video that person has created and uploaded, so it makes sense that they share in the profit.

"In this case, it is a reward for effort and creativity - as long as it doesn't infringe copyright - and that is within their ethos.

"I don't think the same thing would appeal to Facebook's core users."



SEE ALSO
The etiquette of networking
06 Jun 07 |  Technology
Too old for networking?
25 May 07 |  Technology
Hyper-connected generation rises
09 May 07 |  Technology

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