Social Networking Services

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Social Networking Services or SNS are digital services used to connect people in online communities. These services are powered through websites with free registration to allow for the greatest availability to their respective target audiences. Users of social networking services can search and add friends, family, and even total strangers based on user inputted requests and recommender systems provided by the social networking site. This process of adding fellow users to one's social network portfolio extends the web of influence the respective social networking service holds on society.

History of Specific Sites

SixDegrees logo The first social networking site was SixDegrees, founded in 1997. This site attempted to connect with and send messages to others. The website allowed you to confirm a relationship without joining the website SixDegrees failed because there were not enough "friends" online yet and there was not enough of a social aspect to this networking site. The site is in a restructuring period where only previous users and invited users can access SixDegrees but it is supposed to open to the public once the restructuring is complete [1]

Ryze logo Launched in 2001, Ryze was meant to helped people with business networks much like LinkedIn does today. Its audience was largely entrepreneurs and aimed to connect them with potential investors. Failed because it never gained enough members to promote interaction but it is still an active website. [2]

New Friendster logo A social complement to Ryze, Friendster was designed to compete with It was designed to help friends-of-friends meet and interact. Its initial popularity was with three groups: bloggers, gay men and attendees of the Burning Man arts festival. Although some believe Friendster may have failed because it was unable to keep up with it's exponential growth, at it's height it had tens of millions of users. Friendster had several servers fail consistently and could not keep up with the technology needed to maintain an active website. In December 2009 MOL Global acquired Friendster for $26.4 million[3]. Friendster has been discontinued as a social networking site and has pivoted it's product to become a social gaming site[3].

Myspace logo Originally designed to attract estranged Friendster users, Myspace gained popularity through indie-rock bands who promoted their music through the website. Myspace allows users to personalize their pages by utilizing HTML code and adding songs from bands Myspace pages. Myspace was purchased by NewsCorp in 2005 for $580 million and has been plagued by safety issues like cyber-bullying, pedophiles, and misrepresentation of users. Its met its downfall by its emphasis on entertainment and music rather than social networking and by its site design and excessive advertising. In June 2011, Myspace was sold to Specific Media for an estimated $35 million[4]. It is still one of the worlds largest social network with over 125 million users[4], but it has become a music-discovery unit.

Facebook logo Founded in 2004, Facebook is designed to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Originally it was only designed to support college networks but has since extended its reach to high school, locations and employment networks. Facebook has clean profiles that are consistent across the website. It generates revenue through advertising and is free to the public. In 2007, Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share for $240 million.[5]

Twitter logo

Twitter: A micro-blogging site where users speak in 140 characters or less, Twitter allows you to “follow” people from many different circles. It provides access to celebrities and companies that previously were unavailable. Founded in 2006, Twitter began its popularity at the South by Southwest technology conference and is tweeting very strongly today. Twitter has experienced massive growth and has been known to struggle with scaling to its massively growing user base, and as a result, the service occasionally crashes. As of December 2011, Twitter has raised a total of $1.16 billion in funding[6] and by some accounts is valued at more than $8 billion[7].

Ryze logo

Yammer: An enterprise social network that is company-specific. Each separate network requires a company email to join. The Yammer networks are meant to facilitate collaboration, active feedback and a connection between coworkers in a private and secure setting. [8] Yammer has two versions, a basic free version, and a paid that version that allows companies to administer their own networks.

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn: Founded in 2002, LinkedIn is a professional network where users can find past and present colleagues. LinkedIn currently has over a 100 million users in over 200 countries and "allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients"[9].

Google+ logo

Google+: A social network launched and powered by Google on June 28, 2011 to compete with other social networking sites. It allows users to group their friends in "circles" and post information to a certain group. The layout is similar to Facebook's interface, but a user cannot post information on another person's wall. Google+ also created controversy over the inability to alter ones name.

Foursquare logo

Foursquare is a location based social networking site launched in 2009. Foursquare allows users to "check-in" at different locations using mobile devices, mainly smartphones. With each check-in a user gains points and based on the number of points a user has they receive different "badges." If a user has checked-in to a location on more days than anyone else over the last 60 days then that user becomes the "mayor" of that location. Foursquare has faced a lot of criticism over ethical concerns such as privacy and security issues of collecting and using user information. By default all sharing on Foursquare is public, however you can change the default settings to allow for only private sharing[10].

Key Features of Social Networking Services

Profiles are unique pages where you can “type yourself into being.” You choose what information is portrayed to the general public and determine your own online identity. Profiles also have a social element with people writing on walls, releasing control of your online personality to the outside world. From pictures to wall posts, these sites bring the real world into the online world. It brings your social life together all in one place.

Privacy is an always-controversial feature of Social Networking Services. It is based on user discretion or site terms, but sites give default and recommended settings that are often much more relaxed than people are aware of when they sign up for the site. While you are able to delete posts that are written on your profile, people are still able to write things about you without needing your approval. Social networks also display all of your connections, breaking down barriers between social circles that you may have. This aspect of privacy reduces the likelihood of having two separate identities between social circles. Facebook has had many changes in its privacy settings as new features have developed and each time people threaten to quit the site if their privacy is not respected. This will be an interesting feature when Facebook releases its new “Timeline” feature.

Identifying “friends” is the essential component to the social aspect of any Social Networking Service. The bi-directional confirmation of friendship means that you cannot be known as someone’s friend without the acknowledgment of this as a real life connection or at least recognition that you would like to be associated with this person. By identifying your friends, you are creating a network of connections to people who can hold you accountable for what you post on these sites and the person you attempt to portray yourself as. Two types of friends exist, those that you have strong ties with and those you only know in a particular context and have weak ties with. Social Networking Services bring these two together. No one can have over 1,000 close friends, but the sites provide an outlet for the strong ties and the weak ties to intermingle. By identifying these friends, you are confirming that you accept these people as those.

Ethical Implications of Social Networking Services

Privacy: There are several concerns about the ethics of the invasion of privacy that is prevalent in Social Networking Services. Several Social Networking Services employ data mining to gain information on their users and then use that information to sell advertisements to companies. The creation of the "News Feed" function on Facebook was controversial because it allowed people to see information in a central place rather than searching out that information on each individual page.

Social Networks, in a sense have a right to privacy. More and more users of Facebook and LinkedIn are finding that prospective employers are perusing their sites, despite that fact that they may conceive of their online presence as personal space. Laws designed to protect privacy in the outside world struggle to cope with the issues raised by online communities. For example, online publication of photographs, which may be sensitive and revealing, raises new challenges in relation to consent.

Employment: Increasingly, employers are using social networking sites to screen applicants. In June 2009, 45% of employers in a survey admitted to screening social networking sites of their prospective employees. Similarly, 16% of employees use social networking sites to find new jobs. [11] Social networking sites provide new, usable resources for both employers and employees to gather more information. It can be dangerous for prospective employees because their social networking profiles may contain information that they would not want to be accessible by future employers.

Schooling: Not only are employers using social networking sites to screen applicants, but colleges and universities are also doing the same. A recent Kaplan survey concluded that one in ten college admissions counselors visit applicants' social networking sites. This study found that 38 percent of participants in this study found that visiting applicants' social media sites had a negative impact on their candidacy.[12]

False Identity: Many users can create inauthentic or false profiles on social media pages, which can lead to devastating consequences. Peter Chapman created a fake Facebook profile, under the identity of a 17 year old boy. He used this to attract the attention of Ashleigh Hall, who he eventually kidnapped, raped and murdered [13]. While it may not be unethical to create a false profile, it becomes morally wrong when further actions go over ethical boundaries, like in this case.

Arab Spring

The Arab Spring is a wave of demonstrations and protests throughout the Arab World that began in December 2010. Facebook, Twitter and other social-networking sites has been given a lot credit in helping facilitate these protests and revolutions. Social networks reduce the cost of allowing people to get together and coordinate collective action movements as the cost of distribution of information is reduced through the scale and reach of social networks[14]. Furthermore, it is thought that the revolution and protests only really got under way when the governments of these Arab countries tried to shut down access to these services. Yet, there is little evidence of social media/social networking sites having played a strong role in all of the countries participating in the Arab Spring, for example it is thought that in places like Yemen social networks/social media is not playing a significant role in the current protests[15].


The Black Lives Matter movement is, in their own words, "a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life [...] working to (re)build the Black liberation movement." [16]. The organization was first conceived as a hashtag trend on social media networks in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murder in 2012[16].

The movement's start as an online hashtag on various social media platforms--most significantly Twitter--is a valuable study in the impact of social networking sites on public demonstrations and opinions. The hashtag's popularity was so great, that Twitter gave it an accompanying emoji image*.

See Also


  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1
  16. 16.0 16.1

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