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Facebook, Meet the Locals

Raymond Spanjar co-founded Hyves, the dominant social networking site of the Netherlands
Raymond Spanjar co-founded Hyves, the dominant social networking site of the Netherlands

Victor Donselaar, a Dutchman living in Helsinki, Finland, finds the social network Facebook useful for staying in touch with new friends and business contacts from across Europe. But when he wants to connect with old buddies from the Netherlands, his social network of choice is strictly homegrown. "In Holland, none of my friends are on Facebook," Donselaar says. Instead, he notes, they're on a popular Dutch site called Hyves.

As U.S. social network growth slows, sites including Facebook and rival News Corp. (NWS)-owned MySpace have shifted their attention overseas. But while these leading Western sites have seen steady adoption in key countries, they've been met with indifference in markets like the Netherlands, where comparable domestic sites are entrenched. International expansion is key to growth for sites that have struggled to make money from users who would rather socialize than click on ads or make purchases from a profile page.