If you haven't checked in with Justin Bieber recently, he's still the No. 1 cherubic bionic pop robot in the land. But challengers crowd the base of Heartthrob Mountain. Totally lame challengers.

The Atlantic runs down Bieber's "competition" for Top Teen Idol, and it's like if someone entered a 1998 Toyota Corolla and a Razor scooter in to a race against a stealth fighter, which promptly blew up everything with its missiles.

Pity 12-year-old Ronan Parke, whose biggest champion is the UK press. (You know who else the British press loves? Some Irish fools named Jedward.) Weep for 13-year-old Greyson Chance, who seems destined to peak with his Ellen show appearance. That Jamie Lou, the Australian Bieber impersonator who doesn't even sing, is included among Bieber's challengers shows just how thin the field is.

Why is Bieber so entrenched? It's the network effect. In economics, the network effect means that the more people who use a service or technology—like the telephone, or Facebook—the more valuable it is to users, and the harder it will be for any competitor to usurp.

For fans, appeal of Bieber is not just his fine locks (after all, he's taken by Selena Gomez), or his voice (it's no better than the average YouTube prodigy), it's the chance to interact with other fans online. Bieber fandom, with its intricate world of micro-gossip blogs and Twitter gangs, is basically a social networking service for Beliebers to talk about how totally hot Justin Bieber is. And Bieber's network effect, with 10 million followers on Twitter, is strong. (Instagram, a photo-based social networking service that's been heralded as a runaway success, has just five million users.)

These days, upstart idols will have to start by forging their own online network of slavish fans. This inevitably means waging a war of hashtags with the unstoppable Bieber army. You saw how they brutalized to the Wikipedia page of the girl who beat out Bieber for the Grammy's? Things might get ugly.

[Image via Getty]