Social Networking Keeps Buzzing

With new entrants, more funding and expanded services, social networking providers push ahead-although each has its own focus.

While the hype around social networking technology may be dying down, the number of companies entering the space and expanding their services is only heating up.

This week alone, Lycos Inc. entered the social-networking fray with the launch of its Lycos Circles service, LinkedIn Ltd. grabbed another $10 million in funding, and InterActiveCorps ZeroDegrees moved out of beta with a feature for search-engine optimization.

A week earlier, startup Leverage Software Inc. launched with software to help enterprises discover and analyze relationships for sales and marketing.

With its launch Wednesday, Lycos focused on connecting people who already know each other with communication and sharing features in its Circles service. The beta release, which it calls a "social sharing platform," lets users create groups of contacts with whom they can create discussion boards, share photos, send event invitations, create group greeting cards and conduct polls.

Users control which of their contacts can see what information and also can share with nonmembers without requiring them to join Circle, said Lauren Bigelow, vice president of product management at Lycos.

"Our primary purpose is to help you keep in touch with the people you know," Bigelow said. "We heard repeatedly from people that there are obviously a lot of social-networking sites that help you meet friends of friends, but our focus groups said that its hard enough to keep up with the people you already know."

The Circles launch is part of a new strategy Lycos announced earlier this year to focus on personal connectivity. Lycos was bought in August by Korean portal Daum Communications Corp., of Seoul.

Up next for Lycos Circles is adding features in the next few weeks for photo printing, in a revenue-sharing deal with, as well as for downloading music and sharing reviews and play lists, Bigelow said.

One of the earliest social-networking sites to focus on professionals for job hunting and business leads was LinkedIn, of Mountain View, Calif. The company on Wednesday announced that it has bolstered its financial war chest by $10 million.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about LinkedIns plans to offer paid services.

Leading the series B funding round was venture capital firm Greylock, which LinkedIn noted in a news release has a record of producing publicly traded companies. Sequoia Capital, which led LinkedIns $4.7 million first round, also joined in the latest round.

Also, 14 angel investors joined LinkedIn, including Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, Excite co-founder Joe Kraus, founder Josh Kopelman and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The latest funding will help LinkedIn quicken its development of premium services and expand internationally, it announced. LinkedIn said it expects this funding to help it reach profitability.

Next Page: ZeroDegrees turns on the full release of its social-networking site.