Social networking is a key term of "Web 2.0". The term “Web 2.0” was originally created by O’Reilly in late 2003, and signified the next generation of websites where the prime purpose was for users to communicate. Tim O’Reilly stated that
"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform."
There are many different parts to social networking websites, these include:
1. User Profiles
The most important aspect of social networking websites are user profiles. These generally include light amounts of personal data and a thumbnail picture. Profiles allow users not only to meet old friends, but to also meet new people.
View our English Online case study for profile examples
A second important feature of social networking websites is the ability to leave comments and messages. For example on popular social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook, users have an area on their user profile page where people can leave comments and read them known as a wall. The effect of a comment wall is that users will often revisit the website to check up on comments/post some, which increases site hits.
As discussed previously, comments are an important feature to social networking websites, but as they are all displayed together they are not really effective for more detailed communication. Forums on the other hand are designed especially for this purpose. On a website several forums are created, each with a specific topic, for example sport, news, etc. Users can then write a specific ‘post’ about a topic they want to discuss, which users can in turn respond to. The advantages of forums are that they group posts and post replies together, but also group posts of similar topics together too, so information is much more organized.
With users profiles created, the next step in a successful social networking website is the ability for users to link together, creating groups of friends. This can also be used in a more professional aspect. For example the website LinkedIn allows users to group in workplaces, and create business networks. Further, Facebook allows users to set up groups, and then allow for other users to join them. The result is groups of users with similar interests.
The result of the communication and linking of users is that it creates a virtual online community. Users will therefore often log back into the social networking website regularly, to keep upto date, and to generally interact with other users. This is the vital difference between a social networking website, and a more general one. On a general website, it is upto the administrator to provide the site content. However with a social networking website, all of the content is provided by the users who are members.
There are many social networking websites, indeed to many to mention. However this is a brief overview of four of the top rated social networking websites, each with a different purpose.
Flickr is a social networking website with a difference, it allows users to share pictures. Once users have signed up, they can create a profile, and add friends to their account. Photos can then be accessed and shared. Flickr also supports many of the other “web 2.0” features such as free tagging.
When it comes to blogs and social networking, MySpace was one of the first websites. As the name suggests, the website gives users their oen “space” which they can post pictures, music, and a Blog(Web Log). In the social networking sense, users are allowed to add other users to their “friends” list, and also display a thumbnail picture of their top friends on their homepage. Further Mypace implements the “comments wall” idea, allowing users to post short messages at the bottom of someone’s myspace page.
Last.fm is a very inventive social networking website. The difference between it and other websites is that last.fm deals almost exclusively with music. Users signup and install a piece of software on their computer, which tracks all of the artists and songs a user listens to. This information is then sent to the last.fm website, and is used to group users dependant on their musical tastes. It also recommends other bands and songs that are liked by users of similar musical tastes.
The final website we will look at in this post is twitter. As it says on Twiteer.com, twitter is “A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?”. Although it does sound a little like an invasion of personal privacy to begin with, the website is highly popular. Users signup, and then post what they are doing at the moment, and regularly change it throughout the day. Users can then create friends who can see what the person is currently doing and be notified when it changes.
This concludes the look over social networking for today. At Brightlemon we deal with a lot of Web 2.0 websites, and indeed aspects of social networking too.