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Let's play global domination. Here's a map of the world, showing the dominant social networks by country, according to Alexa. There are way more players than anybody, from a vantage point in Silicon Valley, would expect. In the US, the story of social networks is this: there was Friendster, which had no purpose but dating and didn't scale; then Myspace, which gave people freedom to make ugly personal websites; and then came along Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook, which was classier.

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But other services, such as hi5.com, Bebo, Orkut and Friendster itself, have established, and maintained, footholds outside the US. Unsurprisingly, social networks, which let people share news, photographs and other content with their friends, benefit from network effects. A dominant local site, such as Orkut in Brazil, can hold off the competition because it's the default, and nobody wants to migrate to another site, however much more advanced, if their friends won't follow.

Some patterns from the data:

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  • Orkut leads in the Indian subcontinent, as well as Brazil;
  • Facebook is stronger, internationally, than Myspace, with surprising strongholds in the Middle East;
  • hi5.com is the most international of all the social networks, leading in Peru, Colombia, Central America, and other, scattered countries such as Mongolia, Romania, and Tunisia;
  • both Bebo and Skyblog follow colonial patterns, the first strong in smaller English-speaking countries such as Ireland and New Zealand, and the latter in Francophone countries;
  • and Friendster, the original social network, leads all across Southeast Asia.
  • Fotolog, a photo service defeated in the US by Friendster, has re-emerged as the dominant social network in Argentina and Chile.

[Data collected by Valleywag. Thanks to Lucas Shaw of Wandamere for the map work. Please use a thumb, and link back to the original, if you're going to reuse the map.]