Social networking continues to grow rapidly. Most critics concentrate on privacy and ownership of user data, but another aspect is also important to scrutinize: ownership of user content. Most people don't know that the majority of social networks own the content you upload to them, and thus own the right to monetize it.
As you can see in the image above, Facebook earned an estimated $1.86 billion from user-generated content in 2010, more than YouTube and all other social media sites combined made last year. Click on the image to see the larger infographic from MyCube, a company that describes itself as follows:
MyCube is the world's first Social Exchange, which allows individuals and organizations to store and share their information, updates, and content with others, while retaining full privacy, ownership, and control. MyCube believes that your "digital identity" – the collection of your online content, communications and interactions – is YOURS. Meaning yours to own, yours to control, and yours to share with others as you see fit.
MyCube argues that social networks should not be able to own your content and monetize it. Of course, Facebook would counter that it needs to make money to be able to survive as a for-profit company.
It's important to remember that this number is just an estimate, and it's likely much larger for 2011. Just last week, we learned that Facebook could make $1 billion from social gaming this year.
Facebook is a private company and so it doesn't have to disclose financial information. The company is going public next year, possibly as soon as Q1 2012. The website's initial public offering (IPO) could be very high, given that its valuation has been predicted to top $100 billion.