- Social network service
A social network service focuses on building
online communitiesof people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web basedand provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as instant messagingservices.
Social networking has created new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people, and it now seems that social networking will be an enduring part of everyday life. The main types of social networking services are those which contain directories of some categories (such as former classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and recommender systems linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with
MySpaceand Adweekwebsite. Retrieved on January 15 2008.] Nexopia(mostly in Canada); [ [http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/nexopia.com Nexopia stats on Alexa.com] ] Bebo, [ [http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/20/windows-live-messaging-coming-to-bebo/ Bebo] - most popular of its kind in UK (August 2007): TechCrunchwebsite. Retrieved on January 15 2008.] Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, Taggedand Skyrockin parts of Europe; [ [http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2007/06/try_try_againorkut_friendster.html Hi5 popular in Europe] : article from the PBS "MediaShift" website. Retrieved on January 18 2008.] Orkutand Hi5 in South Americaand Central America; [ [http://usability.about.com/od/websiteaudiences/a/Orkut.htm "Why Users Love Orkut"] - 55% of users are Brazilian: About.comwebsite. Retrieved on January 15 2008,] and Friendster, Orkut, and Cyworldin Asia and the Pacific Islands.
There have been some attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate entries of friends and interests (see the FOAF standard and the
Open Source Initiative), but this has led to some concerns about privacy.
History of social networking services
The notion that individual computers linked electronically could form the basis of computer mediated social interaction and networking was suggested early on ["The Network Nation" by S. Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff (Addison-Wesley, 1978, 1993)] . There were many early efforts to support social networks via computer-mediated communication, including
Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV, bulletin board services ( BBS), and EIES: Murray Turoff's server-based Electronic Information Exchange Service (Turoff and Hiltz, 1978, 1993). The Information Routing Groupdeveloped a schema about how the proto-Internet might support this. [David Andrews, "The IRG Solution", Souvenir Press, 1984.]
Early social networking websites included
Classmates.com(1995), focusing on ties with former school mates, and SixDegrees.com(1997), focusing on indirect ties. User profiles could be created, messages sent to users held on a “friends list” and other members could be sought out who had similar interests to yours in their profiles. [ [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html (Boyd & Ellison, 2007, p.3)] .] Whilst these features had existed in some form before SixDegrees.com came about, this would be the first time these functions were available in one package. Despite these new developments (that would later catch on and become immensely popular), the website simply wasn’t profitable and eventually shut down. [ [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html (Boyd & Ellison, 2007, p.3)] ] It was even described by the website’s owner as "simply ahead of its time." [ [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html (A. Weinreich, 2007, cited by Boyd & Ellison, 2007, p.3)] ] Two different models of social networking that came about in 1999 were trust-based, developed by Epinions.com, and friendship-based, such as those developed by Jonathan Bishop and used on some regional UK sites between 1999 and 2001. [Rosen, C. (2007). Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism. New Atlantis, Summer 2007. [http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/17/TNA17-Rosen.pdf Available Online] (PDF)] Innovations included not only showing who is "friends" with whom, but giving users more control over content and connectivity. Between 2002 and 2004, three social networking sites emerged as the most popular form of these sites in the world, causing such sites to become part of mainstream users globally. First there was Friendster(which Google tried to acquire in 2003), then, MySpace, and finally, Bebo. By 2005, MySpace, emergent as the biggest of them all, was reportedly getting more page views than BusinessWeekwebsite.] In 2006, Facebook opened up to the non US college community, and together with allowing externally-developed add-on applications, and some applications enabled the graphing of a user's own social network - thus linking social networks and social networking, became the largest and fastest growing site in the world, not limited by particular geographical followings. [ [http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9990635 "Social graph-iti"] : Facebook's social network graphing: article from The Economist's website. Retrieved on January 19 2008.] Social networking began to flourish as a component of business internet strategy at around March 2005 when Yahoo launched Yahoo! 360°. In July 2005 News Corporationbought MySpace, followed by ITV(UK) buying Friends Reunitedin December 2005. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4697671.stm News Corporation buys MySpace] : BBC.co.uk website.] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4502550.stm ITV buys Friends Reunited] : BBC.co.uk website.] Various social networking sites have sprung up catering to different languages and countries. It is estimated that combined there are now over 200 social networking sites using these existing and emerging social networking models, [ [http://www.infojuice.org/subjects/social-networking-using-the-internet/ Over 200 social networking sites] : "InfoJuice" website. Retrieved on January 19 2008] without counting the niche social networks (also referred to as vertical social networks) made possible by services such as Ningand KickApps. [ [http://www.genuinevc.com/archives/2006/02/vertical_social.htm] : Vertical Social Networks; [http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/24/9-ways-to-build-your-own-social-network/] : Nine Ways to Build Your Own Social Network, TechCrunch, July 24 2007]
Research on the social impact of social networking software
An increasing number of academic commentators are becoming interested in studying Facebook and other social networking tools. Social science researchers have begun to investigate what the impact of this might be on society. Typical articles have investigated issues such as
*Identity [danah boyd (2006), Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites, First Monday, 11 (12). [http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_12/boyd/index.html Available Online] ]
*Privacy [Gross, R and Acquisti, A (2005). Information Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks (The Facebook case). Pre-proceedings version. ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society (WPES), [http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~acquisti/papers/privacy-facebook-gross-acquisti.pdf Available Online] (PDF).]
*E-learning [For example Mike Thelwall, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo: Social Networking Students, ALT: Online Newsletter (January 2008), [http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/e_article000993849.cfm?x=b11,0,w. Available Online] .
Also Mazer, J. P., Murphy, R. E., and Simonds, C. J. (2007). I'll See You On "Facebook": The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate. Communication Education 56 (1), 1-17, [http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ftinterface~content=a769651179~fulltext=713240930 Available Online] .]
*Social capital [NB Ellison, C Steinfield, C Lampe, The Benefits of Network Sites- JOURNAL OF COMPUTER MEDIATED COMMUNICATION 12 (2007), [http://www.swinmc.net/documents/facebook.pdf Available Online] (PDF).]
*Teenage use [danah boyd, (2007), Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites, MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning - Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). MIT Press. [http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.119 Available Online] (PDF).]
A special issue of the Journal for Computer-Mediated Communications was dedicated to [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/ studies of social network sites] . Included in this issue is an introduction to social network sites. [danah boyd and Nicole Ellison (2007, October). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1). [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html Available Online] ] A list of academic scholarship on these sites is also available. [ [http://www.danah.org/SNSResearch.html Research on Social Network Sites] Known academic scholarship concerning social network sites, maintained by danah boyd.]
A 2008 book published by Forrester Research, Inc. titled "Groundswell" builds on a 2006 Forrester Report about social computing and coins the term groundswell to mean "a spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience, and get what they need-information, support, ideas, products, and bargaining power--from each other."
Social networks connect people at low cost; this can be beneficial for
entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to expand their contact base. These networks often act as a customer relationship management tool for companies selling products and services. Companies can also use social networks for advertising in the form of banners and text ads. Since businesses operate globally, social networks can make it easier to keep in touch with contacts around the world.
One example of social networking being used for business purposes is
Professional networking sites function as online meeting places for business and industry professionals. Other sites are bringing this model for niche business professional networking.
Virtual communities for business allow individuals to be accessible. People establish their real identity in a verifiable place. These individuals then interact with each other or within groups that share common business interests and goals. They can also post their own user generated content in the form of blogs, pictures, slide shows and videos. Like a social network, the consumer essentially becomes the publisher.
A professional network is used for the business to business marketplace. These networks improve the ability for people to advance professionally, by finding, connecting and networking with others. Business professionals can share experiences with others who have a need to learn from similar experiences.
The traditional way to interact is face-to-face. Interactive technology makes it possible for people to network with their peers from anywhere, at anytime in an online environment. Professional network services attract, aggregate and assemble large business-focused audiences by creating informative and interactive meeting places.
Social networks are beginning to be adopted by healthcare professionals as a means to manage institutional knowledge, disseminate peer to peer knowledge and to highlight individual physicians and institutions. The advantage of using a dedicated medical social networking site is that all the members are screened against the state licensing board list of practitioners. [ [http://www.primarypsychiatry.com/aspx/articledetail.aspx?articleid=975 "Social Networking: Now Professionally Ready"] , "PrimaryPsychiatry.com" website.]
The role of social networks is especially of interest to pharmaceutical companies who spend approximately "32 percent of their marketing dollars" attempting to influence the opinion leaders of social networks. [ [http://www.medadnews.com/News/index.cfm?articleid=424455 "Social Networks Impact the Drugs Physicians Prescribe According to Stanford Business School Research"] , "Pharmalive.com" website.]
A new trend is emerging with social networks created to help its members with various physical and mental ailments. For people suffering from life altering diseases,
PatientsLikeMeoffers its members the chance to connect with others dealing with similar issues and research patient data related to their condition. For alcoholics and addicts, SoberCirclegives people in recovery the ability to communicate with one another and strengthen their recovery through the encouragement of others who can relate to their situation. Daily strengthis also a website that offers support groups for a wide array of topics and conditions, including the support topics offered by PatientsLikeMeand SoberCircle.
ocial networks for social good
Several websites are beginning to tap into the power of the social networking model for
social good. Such models may be highly successful for connecting otherwise fragmented industries and small organizations without the resources to reach a broader audience with interested and passionate users. Users benefit by interacting with a like minded community and finding a channel for their energy and giving. [ [http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118765256378003494.html "A New Generation Reinvents Philanthropy"] , "Wall Street Journal" website.] Examples include SixDegrees.org, TakingITGlobaland Network for Good. The charity badgeis often used within the above context.
Typical structure of a social networking service
In general, social networking services allow users to create a profile for themselves, and can be broken down into two broad categories: internal social networking (ISN) [ [http://www.news.com/Companies-warned-not-to-rush-into-social-networking/2100-1032_3-6223009.html "Companies warned not to rush into social networking"] , implications of internal social networking in a business environment: News.com website. Retrieved on
January 22 2008.] and external social networking (ESN) [ [http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Facebook,+MySpace,+and+Co.:+IHEs+ponder+whether+or+not+to+embrace...-a0162303039 "Facebook, MySpace, and Co.: IHEs ponder whether or not to embrace social networking websites"] , implications of external social networking in education: TheFreeLibrary.comwebsite. Retrieved on January 22 2008.] sites, such as Orkut, MySpace, Bebo. Both types can increase the feeling of community among people. An ISN is a closed/private community that consists of a group of people within a company, association, society, education provider and organization or even an "invite only" group created by a user in an ESN. An ESN is open/public and available to all web users to communicate and are designed to attract advertisers. ESN's can be smaller specialised communities (i.e. linked by a single common interest eg TheSocialGolfer, ACountryLife.Com, Great Cooks Community) or they can be large generic social networking sites (eg MySpace, Facebook etc). However, whether specialised or generic there is commonality across the general approach of social networking sites. Users can upload a picture of themselves, create their 'profile' and can often be "friends" with other users. In most social networking services, both users must confirm that they are friends before they are linked. For example, if Alice lists Bob as a friend, then Bob would have to approve Alice's friend request before they are listed as friends. Some social networking sites have a "favorites" feature that does not need approval from the other user. Social networks usually have privacy controls that allows the user to choose who can view their profile or contact them, etc.
Several social networks in Asian markets such as India, China, Japan and Korea have reached not only a high usage but also a high level of profitability. Services such as QQ (China), Mixi (Japan), Cyworld (Korea) or the mobile-focused service Mobile Game Town by the company DeNA in Japan (which has over 10 million users) are all profitable, setting them apart from their western counterparts. [cite web |url=http://www.plus8star.com/?p=109 |title=New business models in online communities |accessdate=2008-07-02 |last=Joffe |first=Benjamin |date=2008-3-30 |year= |month= |format= |work=ReadWriteWeb Interview: Facebook vs Asia’s Top Social Networks |publisher=+8* |pages=46 |archiveurl=http://www.slideshare.net/plus8star/comparison-of-leading-sns/ |archivedate=2008-03-30 |quote= ]
Some social networks have additional features, such as the ability to create groups that share common interests or affiliations, upload or stream live videos, and hold discussions in forums.
Geosocial networkingco-opts internet mapping services to organize user participation around geographic features and their attributes.
There is also a trend for more interoperability between social networks led by technologies such as
Few social networks currently charge money for membership. In part, this may be because social networking is a relatively new service, and the value of using them has not been firmly established in customers' minds. [ [http://www.secondlifeinsider.com/2007/07/18/just-askin-the-value-of-social-networking-tools/ The Value of Social Networking Tools] Second Life Insider] Companies such as
MySpaceand online advertisingon their site. Hence, they are seeking large memberships, and charging for membership would be counter productive. [ [http://www.forbes.com/technology/ebusiness/2006/03/29/microsoft-myspace-newscorp-in_cc_0330soapbox_inl.html Murdoch Will Earn a Payday from MySpace] Forbes] [ [http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=advertising_targeting Linked In Targeted Advertising] LinkedIn] Some believe that the deeper information that the sites have on each user will allow much better targeted advertising than any other site can currently provide. [ [http://www.wired.com/techbiz/startups/news/2007/07/facebook_platform As Applications Blossom, Facebook Is Open for Business] Wired] Sites are also seeking other ways to make money, such as by creating an online marketplace (Facebook's Marketplace) [ [http://www.facebook.com/marketplace/guidelines.php Facebook Marketplace Guidelines] Facebook] or by selling professional information and social connections to businesses: such as
Social networks operate under an autonomous business model, in which a social network's members serve dual roles as both the suppliers and the consumers of content. This is in contrast to a traditional business model, where the suppliers and consumers are distinct agents. Revenue is typically gained in the autonomous business model via advertisements, but subscription-based revenue is possible when membership and content levels are sufficiently high. [Flor, N. (2000). Web Business Engineering. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley; [http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=20882 Description of the autonomous business model] used in social network services: article by Nick V. Flor at the
Other business models such as including digital goods (personalization, avatars, background music, skins, gifts, etc.), [cite web |url=http://www.plus8star.com/Inside_Cyworld_Sample.pdf |title=Inside Cyworld: Best Practices from South Korea’s Leading Online Community (sample) |accessdate=2008-07-02 |date=2006-10-18 |format=Portable Document Format |work= |publisher=+8* |pages=11, 64-67 |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] connection with casual games (on QQ in China [cite web |url=http://www.plus8star.com/Inside_QQ_Sample.pdf |title=Inside QQ: Learning from China’s leading online community (sample) |accessdate=2008-07-02 |date=2008-01-07 |format=Portable Document Format |work= |publisher=+8* |pages= |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] or Mobile Game Town in Japan), or link to mobile first made successful in Asia.cite web |url=http://www.plus8star.com/?p=123 |title=What Asia can tell us about mobile social networks |accessdate=2008-07-02 |last=Joffe |first=Benjamin |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2008-06-11 |work=Graphing Social Patterns Conference ! Facebook vs. Leading Asian mobile SNS |publisher=+8* |pages=25, 29 |archiveurl=http://www.slideshare.net/plus8star/comparison-of-mobile-social-networks/ |archivedate=2008-06-11 |quote= ] QQ's revenues in 2007 were US$523 million [cite web |url=http://www.plus8star.com/?p=99 |title=Inside QQ Report is out! |accessdate=2008-08-17 |last=Joffe |first=Benjamin |date=2008-01-07 |publisher=+8*|archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] and a US$225 million profit.
On large social networking services, there have been growing concerns about users giving out too much personal information and the threat of sexual predators. Users of these services need to be aware of data theft or viruses. However, large services, such as MySpace, often work with law enforcement to try to prevent such incidents.
In addition, there is a perceived privacy threat in relation to placing too much personal information in the hands of large corporations or governmental bodies, allowing a profile to be produced on an individual's behavior on which decisions, detrimental to an individual, may be taken.
Furthermore, there is an issue over the control of data - information having been altered or removed by the user may in fact be retained and/or passed to 3rd parties. This danger was highlighted when the controversial social networking site
Quechupharvested e-mail addresses from users' e-mail accounts for use in a spamming operation. [ [http://www.e-consultancy.com/news-blog/364182/social-network-launches-worldwide-spam-campaign.html Social network launches worldwide spam campaign] "E-consultancy.com", Accessed 10 September 2007]
In medical and scientific research, asking subjects for information about their behaviors is normally strictly scrutinized by
institutional review boards, for example, to ensure that adolescents and their parents have informed consent. It is not clear whether the same rules apply to researchers who collect data from social networking sites. These sites often contain a great deal of data that is hard to obtain via traditional means. Even though the data are public, republishing it in a research paper might be considered invasion of privacy. [cite journal |journal=Pediatrics |date=2008 |volume=121 |issue=1 |pages=157–61 |title= Research ethics in the MySpace era |author= Moreno MA, Fost NC, Christakis DA |doi=10.1542/peds.2007-3015 |pmid=18166570]
Notifications on social networking websites
There has been a trend for social networking sites to only send out only 'positive' notifications to users. For example sites such as Bebo, Facebook and Myspace will not send notifications to users when they are removed from a person's friends list. Similarly Bebo will send out a notification if a user is moved to the top of another user's friends list but no notification is sent if they are moved down the list.
This allows users to purge undesirables from their list extremely easily and often without confrontation since a user will rarely notice if one person disappears from their friends list. It also enforces the general positive atmosphere of the website without drawing attention to unpleasant happenings such as friends falling out, rejection and failed relationships.
Social network services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations. Information posted on sites such as MySpace and Facebook has been used by police, probation, and university officials to prosecute users of said sites. In some situations, content posted on MySpace has been used in court. [ [http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21775032-11869,00.html "MySpace exposes sex predators"] , use of its content in the courtroom: Herald and Weekly Times (
Australia) website. Retrieved on January 19 2008.]
Facebook is increasingly being used by school administrations and law enforcement agencies as a source of evidence against student users. The site, the number one online destination for college students, allows users to create profile pages with personal details. These pages can be viewed by other registered users from the same school which often include resident assistants and campus police who have signed-up for the service. [ [http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=670380 "Getting booked by Facebook"] , courtesy of campus police:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinelwebsite. Retrieved on January 19 2008.]
Potential for misuse
The relative freedom afforded by social networking services has caused concern regarding the potential of its misuse by individual patrons. In October 2006, a fake
Myspaceprofile created in the name of Josh Evans by Lori Janine Drew led to the suicide of Megan Meier. [ [http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23711115-663,00.html| Fatal MySpace internet hoax mother is charged, Herald Sun, 17 May 2008] ] The event incited global concern regarding the use of social networking services for bullying purposes.
In July 2008, a Briton,
Grant Raphael, was ordered to pay a total of GBP £22,000 (about USD $44,000) for libel and breach of privacy. Raphael had posted a fake page on
Mobile social network
List of social networking websites
Comparison of social networking software
Online dating service
Social network aggregation
Professional network service
Distributed social network
Danah Boyd's list of articles about social network services [http://www.danah.org/SNSResearch.html]
* [http://royal.pingdom.com/?p=336 Map of social network popularity around the world]
* Boyd, Danah and Ellison, Nicole. [http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html "Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship."] Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, volume 13, issue 11, October 2007.
* Cockrell, Cathy, [http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/04/28_digitalyouth.shtml "Plumbing the mysterious practices of 'digital youth' : In first public report from a 'seminal' study, UC Berkeley scholars shed light on kids' use of Web 2.0 tools"] , "UC Berkeley News", University of California, Berkeley, NewsCenter, 28 April 2008
* Else, Liz, and Turkle, Sherry. "Living online: I'll have to ask my friends",
New Scientist, issue 2569, 20 September 2006. (interview)
* Glaser, Mark, " [http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2007/08/digging_deeperyour_guide_to_so_1.html Your Guide to Social Networking Online] ," PBS MediaShift
* Naone, Erica, "Who Owns Your Friends?: Social-networking sites are fighting over control of users' personal information.", MIT Technology Review, July/August 2008
* Seabrook, John. "Deeper : my two-year odyssey in cyberspace", New York : Simon & Schuster, 1997.
*Urstadt, Bryant, "Social Networking Is Not a Business: Web 2.0--the dream of the user-built, user-centered, user-run Internet--has delivered on just about every promise except profit. Will its most prominent example, social networking, ever make any money?", MIT Technology Review, July/August 2008
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