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The next round of the social-networking craze

I have slowly built my LinkedIn network over the years , jumped on and off Friendster, and just made it onto Facebook--and now I should join Yahoo's Mash?

Mash, Yahoo's way of quietly saying farewell to Yahoo 360, is at first glance a somewhat uninspired attempt to catch up with Facebook. Even the name is boring--Mash. Don't mix it up, by the way, with Mosh, Nokia's mobile networking site (currently in beta) and Mashable, the social-networking blog. Mash (invite-only as of now) looks like a cross between Facebook, MySpace and Netvibes--and it also has a bit of wiki DNA: Anyone you grant permissions to can edit your profile or add modules they think are relevant to your profile. Besides that, nothing new.

To be fair, it may not be a super-innovative move to come up with another social-networking site, but if you were a Yahoo exec, wouldn't you do the same? As one of the burgeoning social networks may potentially emerge as the new Internet, and yes, maybe the new operating system, Yahoo simply can't afford to not jump on the bandwagon and not leverage the viral powers of its broad user base.

As a user though, I have mixed emotions. I have slowly built my LinkedIn network over the years (although all my European friends remain on Xing, formerly OpenBC), jumped on and off Friendster, and just made it onto Facebook, as a very late adopter, and now I should join yet another network? What are the benefits? Besides a few neat features, what makes Mash truly different than the leader of the pack? Can I at least import my Facebook buddy lists? Is there really a market for multiple social networks? Can you, my loyal friends, please stay with me and not emigrate again?

And yet, there is hope: Every new social network is a chance to learn from the mistakes you made on past sites (when your invitation-happiness compromised the quality of your network). It's a chance to reinvent yourself, relaunch your identity, and start a new life. So I guess I will give it a try.