The Importance of Social Networking in Drupal

Sun, Aug 16, 2009 - 10:18am -- Isaac Sukin

To illustrate the point made in my last blog post, I'd like to offer some visual representations of the burst in social media adoption within Drupal. To start, here's the usage chart (with outliers corrected) for my Facebook-style Statuses module for Drupal. The figures shown in the chart are estimated to be about half of the actual adoption rate because of the way the figures are collected.

Weekly Facebook-style Statuses (Microblog) Usage

As you can see, the module -- a central one for any social networking site these days, in the model of Facebook, Twitter, and others -- has experienced a steady rate of growth over the past year, going from zero users to well over 1200 (recorded). However, this chart is perhaps a bit misleading because of the scale. A chart that is to scale is more striking:

Weekly Facebook-style Statuses (Microblog) Usage (to scale)

And that's just the numbers that can be recorded. If we assume the actual adoption rate is twice that, the chart goes almost vertical. That would mean about 7 new sites add this module every day. As social networks can attract some of the largest user-bases of any kind of site, that equates to thousands of people using the "what are you doing?"-style status functionality every day on Drupal.

I'm saying this to point out that most social networking sites on Drupal probably don't even use FBSS, and so the number of new social networking sites on Drupal alone must be growing at an astounding rate. (The total number of new Drupal sites each day over the last year has been about 375.) This puts pressure on the Drupal contrib development community to make sure the social networking tools that modern sites need are available and stable--and so far, we've done a fair job at that I think. It also means that everyone who builds, maintains, or is thinking of building a social networking site should be confident that they are on the right track, but that they also need to continue innovating and making sure that they are fulfilling the needs of their audiences. And it means that any business who hasn't considered making the social networking leap should do so soon or risk falling behind like the newspaper industry.

To further illustrate the importance of social networking, I'd like to draw your attention to this short video pointed out by Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal:

If you're not convinced yet, just consider the emphasis cutting-edge companies like Facebook and Google (and somewhat less cutting-edge companies like Microsoft and Yahoo!) are putting into new initiatives which seem to be aimed at real-time searching, especially of social media data: Facebook recently acquired real-time social media searching master Friendfeed, Google is developing a new, faster, supposedly real-time search engine, and Yahoo! agreed to share their search technology with Microsoft in exchange for using Microsoft's new, faster, better search engine, Bing. These big companies with panels of analysts to help with foresight are already on the social networking game; with Drupal, you can do it too.