Yonja's $12.5 million worth of funding and asks, "What is it about Turkey?." As a Turkish native, I think I am the right person to answer that question and also, this can be an opportunity to shed some light on the latest intriguing developments at Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and Ning, as they relate to the European and world social networking markets.TechCrunch's Mike Butcher reports about Turkish social network
First things first, this investment is actually quite old. It was announced in Turkey in August 2007, and since, there have been a lot of changes on the Yonja side, including the sell out of some more shares to Turkey's Yahoo!, MyNet, for an estimated amount of $15 million. These moves are actually a response to the growing popularity of Facebook in Turkey. Turkey is now the 4th biggest local network on Facebook following the USA, Canada, and England, and it is the biggest non-English speaking community on the site. Numbers below are from December 22, 2007:
- The Turkish population on Facebook is estimated to exceed 2.1 million, which places Turkey just behind the USA, UK, and Canada, and ahead of English-speaking Australia.
- 10 out of the 150 most active applications on Facebook are in non-English languages. 1 is in Spanish, the other 9 are in Turkish.
- There are 6 non-English apps in the first 10 pages of the Recently Popular list - they are all in Turkish.
Further, some of Facebook's fascinating visitor numbers coming out of ComScore and other web metric firms come from the Turkish effect. I had the chance to ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about it at the Crunchies event, and he agreed that Turkey was having an effect on Facebook's traffic. This is actually a threat for Facebook. Because if non-English speakers dominate an entire network, it could lead to the alienation of the existing user base, similar to what happened with Orkut in its early days. Honor Gunday, the founder of one the largest social networks in Turkey, Zurna, enviously calls this "Orkutization."
Secondly, this investment in Yonja is not the only success we've heard about lately out of Turkey. As Mike Butcher recalls, cember.net was recently acquired by the European business networking leader Xing. This is actually a rather big move, because while LinkedIn has a very strong position in America, they have zero presence in other locations. LinkedIn might be fast being erased by Xing's global expansion. In a global, connected world, that's not a good sign for LinkedIn. And note that Xing is already a public company. So if LinkedIn delays an exit a little more, it may lose its advantageous position, even in the US. In other words, I'm not as optimistic about LinkedIn as our own Bernard Lunn. A small delay may make us call LinkedIn, LinkedInDust.
Similarly when you take a look at Alexa's ranking of Ning's biggest networks, you see that they are either adult-oriented or Turkish. So Ning is being nourished by Turkish traffic as well.
Last but not least, Turkey's high potential in social networking comes from its very young demographics. The number of young people in Turkey exceeds even the most populated countries in Europe. Moreover, the Internet penetration is quite high, and similar to Brazilians, Turkish people have very social characteristics; Turkey was the 2nd biggest market for Live Messenger, after all.
As for Mike's question, some influential people behind the world's most popular social networks come from Turkey. To name a couple, the founder of Orkut and the project manager of Windows Live are Turkish. So, "what is it about Turkey," is not actually the right type of question, although I can understand Mike, because Turkey is generally still a market in the dark, awaiting more exploration.