An Online Social Network, in my opinion, is a hosted service that connects individuals or groups of people. There are many pros and cons to the many social networks out there. Below are my opinions and reviews of various types of social networking platforms.
Microblogging-based social networks provide profiles that are designed to be updated very frequently, but without huge detail. One of the ones I use most is Twitter, which is probably the largest microblogging social network. The service lets you update through several different interfaces, including their web site, SMS, one of several instant messaging networks (although AIM is
regrettably not supported), or desktop applications like Twhirl and Snitter. You can keep up with family and friends with a click of a button. There are other “copycat” networks like this, with two examples being Pownce and Jaiku, but they
simply aren’t as popular as Twitter. (Editor’s note: the Editor (and the writer) is a huge Twitterholic – don’t end up with the addiction that he picked up thanks to Twitter!)
This category is, by far and wide, the most popular, including sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Generally, one would put together a profile using the service’s tools, adding various levels of interactivity, and friends look at what other friends post to their friends profiles as well as their own. Typically, the main goals of these services are to help you create new friends, find old friends, and to express yourself online. Let’s take MySpace as an example. They have a search feature for finding old friends and options to find people with interests that are similar to yours. Extras from MySpace include a blogging feature and an instant messaging network.
There is much controversy over MySpace (although there’s much less in respect to other networks), mostly over people giving out too much information, like address, phone numbers, and other personal data. This data may be picked up by sex offenders, who pose a significant risk to users of social networks. If you think that there’s no danger involved with MySpace, and that all of the Dateline NBC stories are fakes and rarely happen. This is NOT so. In July 2007, the company found and deleted 29000 profiles belonging to registered sex offenders! Around 30 thousand profiles were sex offenders! Facebook is much safer in this regard, but there will always be a problem with safety in profile based systems.
With networks like Last.fm, the connections lay around the media. People sign up for these services,
provide the service with data, like favorite movies or songs, and the network in turn finds people and groups
with matching interests. These sites help you find both new media (i.e.. new
songs and videos), and meet the people who produce them.
These social networks are basically profile based systems that are made for a specific group of people. An example of this is MySpace Music.
They are based on profiles, but also include functionality like a music player
where you can buy an artist’s songs.
(Editor’s note: Sites like Ning allow
you to build your own social networks that focus on a specific niche and provide
services and resources relevant to that niche.)
There are, of course, many networks that I didn’t even mention, since the ones listed above are definitely the most notable. You can check out Wikipedia’s extensive community published list of social networking sites to find one that suits you.
Do you have your own opinions about social networking? Leave a comment and let your voice be heard!