One of the biggest benefits of joining BlackPlanet is the central location it provides for users to meet and share ideas and opinions. As a social networking site, it does this by definition. Since BlackPlanet is a niche social networking site, however, it offers a more focused forum -- a place where African-Americans can talk about African-American issues and how larger issues affect their community. As a result, BlackPlanet has served as a means by which the African-American community has strengthened itself via the Internet. This has always been a goal of the site, according to founder Omar Wasow, and one it's achieved.
This is not to say that BlackPlanet is offlimits to anyone. Wasow points out that all are welcome. "Anybody can join," he told Stanford Magazine in 2004. "We found that we were not segregating the Web. Members would come and hang out at BlackPlanet, then become more enthusiastic citizens of the Web in general" [source: Wasow]. In the founder's opinion, the site has benefited what he originally saw as an underserved minority group on the Internet. Since BlackPlanet was launched in 1999, its membership increased from a few thousand users to more than 18 million by 2008, making it the fifth largest social networking site in the U.S. [source: The Free Library]. In other words, there are a lot of people to connect with on BlackPlanet.
Users aren't the only ones who benefit from the massive breadth of the BP membership pool. When Barack Obama made his bid for president, he made what many widely consider a very savvy move: He created a BlackPlanet page. (President Obama still maintains his personal BP page.) Within two weeks of the creation of the page in October 2007, Obama had 192,000 friends on the site -- more than he enjoyed on either MySpace or Facebook [source: Vargas]. Without spending any money, Obama managed to connect to nearly 200,000 potential supporters through BlackPlanet.
Since its launch in 1999, BlackPlanet has established a place for itself in the upper echelons of social networking sites. After all, when the president maintains a page on a Web site, it's officially hit the big time.
For more information on BlackPlanet and social media, visit the next page.