A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, who, for example, share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services.
Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service, though in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks. citation needed] The main types of social networking services are those which contain category places (such as former school year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide, Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, VKontakte, Hi5, Hyves (mostly in The Netherlands), Draugiem. lv (mostly in Latvia), StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Nasza-Klasa (mostly in Poland), Nyx. z (mostly in Czech Republic), iCubee (mostly in Philippines), Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe; Orkut and Hi5 in South America and Central America; and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, renren and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and LinkedIn and Orkut are very popular in India. There have been 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). A 2011 survey found that 47% of American adults used a social network.  History
The potential for computer networking to facilitate new forms of computer-mediated social interaction was suggested early on.  Efforts to support social networks via computer-mediated communication were made in many early online services, including Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV, and bulletin board services (BBS). Many prototypical features of social networking sites were also present in online services such as America Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe. Early social networking on the World Wide Web began in the form of generalized online communities such as Theglobe. com (1995), Geocities (1994) and Tripod. om (1995). Many of these early communities focused on bringing people together to interact with each other through chat rooms, and encouraged users to share personal information and ideas via personal webpages by providing easy-to-use publishing tools and free or inexpensive webspace. Some communities – such as Classmates. com – took a different approach by simply having people link to each other via email addresses. In the late 1990s, user profiles became a central feature of social networking sites, allowing users to compile lists of “friends” and search for other users with similar interests.
New social networking methods were developed by the end of the 1990s, and many sites began to develop more advanced features for users to find and manage friends.  This newer generation of social networking sites began to flourish with the emergence of SixDegrees. com in 1997, followed by Makeoutclub in 2000,, Friendster in 2002, and soon became part of the Internet mainstream. Friendster was followed by MySpace and LinkedIn a year later, and finally, Bebo. Attesting to the rapid increase in social networking sites’ popularity, by 2005, MySpace was reportedly getting more page views than Google.
Facebook, launched in 2004, has since become the largest social networking site in the world. Today, it is estimated that there are now over 200 active sites using a wide variety of social networking models.  May 2011: Based on TNS research, the global average of who access daily the social networking sites accounts is 46 percent.  Social impacts Web based social networking services make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders. 18] Through e-mail and instant messaging, online communities are created where a gift economy and reciprocal altruism are encouraged through cooperation. Information is particularly suited to gift economy, as information is a nonrival good and can be gifted at practically no cost.  Facebook and other social networking tools are increasingly the object of scholarly research. Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, investigating how such sites may play into issues of identity, privacy, social capital, youth culture, and education. 22] Several websites are beginning to tap into the power of the social networking model for philanthropy. Such models provide a means for connecting otherwise fragmented industries and small organizations without the resources to reach a broader audience with interested users.  Social networks are providing a different way for individuals to communicate digitally. These communities of hypertexts allow for the sharing of information and ideas, an old concept placed in a digital environment.
In 2011, HCL Technologies conducted research which showed that 50% of British employers had banned the use of social networking sites/services during office hours.   Typical structure Basics Social networking sites share some conventional features. Most often, individual users are encouraged to create profiles containing various information about themselves. Users can often upload pictures of themselves to their profiles, post blog entries for others to read, search for other users with similar interests, and compile and share lists of contacts.
In addition, user profiles often have a section dedicated to comments from friends and other users. To protect user privacy, social networks usually have controls that allow users to choose who can view their profile, contact them, add them to their list of contacts, and so on. In recent years, it has also become common for a wide variety of organizations to create profiles to advertise products and services. Additional features 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 networking co-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 OpenID and OpenSocial. Lately, mobile social networking has become popular.  In most mobile communities, mobile phone users can now create their own profiles, make friends, participate in chat rooms, create chat rooms, hold private conversations, share photos and videos, and hare blogs by using their mobile phone. Some companies provide wireless services which allow their customers to build their own mobile community and brand it, but one of the most popular wireless services for social networking in North America is Facebook Mobile. Emerging trends in social networking As the increase in popularity of social networking is on a constant rise, new uses for the technology are constantly being observed. At the forefront of emerging trends in social networking sites is the concept of “real-time web” and “location based. Real time allows users to contribute content, which is then broadcasted as it is being uploaded – the concept is analogous to live radio and television broadcasts. Twitter set the trend for “real time” services, where users can broadcast to the world what they are doing, or what is on their minds within a 140 character limit. Facebook followed suit with their “Live Feed” where users’ activities are streamed as soon as it happens. While Twitter focuses on words, Clixtr, another real time service, focuses on group photo sharing where users can update their photo streams with photos while at an event.
Facebook, however, remains easily the greatest photo sharing site – Facebook application and photo aggregator Pixable estimates that Facebook will have 100 billion photos by Summer 2011 . Foursquare gained popularity as it allowed for users to “check-in” to places that they are frequenting at that moment. Gowalla is another such service which functions in much the same way that Foursquare does, leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-based user experience.
Clixtr, though in the real time space, is also a location based social networking site since events created by users are automatically geotagged, and users can view events occurring nearby through the Clixtr iPhone app. Recently, Yelp announced its entrance into the location based social networking space through check-ins with their mobile app; whether or not this becomes detrimental to Foursquare or Gowalla is yet to be seen as it is still considered a new space in the Internet technology industry. 28] One popular use for this new technology is social networking between businesses. Companies have found that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great ways to build their brand image. According to Jody Nimetz, author of Marketing Jive, there are five major uses for businesses and social media: to create brand awareness, as an online reputation management tool, for recruiting, to learn about new technologies and competitors, and as a lead generation tool to intercept potential prospects. 29] These companies are able to drive traffic to their own online sites while encouraging their consumers and clients to have discussions on how to improve or change products or services. One other use that is being discussed is the use of social networks in the science communities. Julia Porter Liebeskind et al. have published a study on how new biotechnology firms are using social networking sites to share exchanges in scientific knowledge. 30] They state in their study that by sharing information and knowledge with one another, they are able to “increase both their learning and their flexibility in ways that would not be possible within a self-contained hierarchical organization. ” Social networking is allowing scientific groups to expand their knowledge base and share ideas, and without these new means of communicating their theories might become “isolated and irrelevant”. Social networks are also being used by teachers and students as a communication tool.
Because many students are already using a wide-range of social networking sites, teachers have begun to familiarize themselves with this trend and are now using it to their advantage. Teachers and professors are doing everything from creating chat-room forums and groups to extend classroom discussion to posting assignments, tests and quizzes, to assisting with homework outside of the classroom setting. Social networks are also being used to foster teacher-parent communication. These sites make it possible and more convenient for parents to ask questions and voice concerns without having to meet face-to-face.
Social networks are being used by activists as a means of low-cost grassroots organizing. Extensive use of an array of social networking sites enabled organizers of the 2009 National Equality March to mobilize an estimated 200,000 participants to march on Washington with a cost savings of up to 85% per participant over previous methods.  The use of online social networks by libraries is also an increasingly prevalent and growing tool that is being used to communicate with more potential library users, as well as extending the services provided by individual libraries.
A final rise in social network use is being driven by college students using the services to network with professionals for internship and job opportunities. Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of networking online in a college setting, and one notable one is by Phipps Arabie and Yoram Wind published in Advances in Social Network Analysis.  Social network hosting service A social network hosting service is a web hosting service that specifically hosts the user creation of web-based social networking services, alongside related applications.
Such services are also known as vertical social networks due to the creation of SNSes which cater to specific user interests and niches; like larger, interest-agnostic SNSes, such niche networking services may also possess the ability to create increasingly niche groups of users. Business model 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. citation needed] Companies such as MySpace and Facebook sell online advertising on their site. Their business model is based upon large membership count, and charging for membership would be counterproductive.  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.  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.  Issues Privacy Privacy concerns with social networking services have been raised growing concerns amongst users on the dangers of giving out too much personal information and the threat of sexual predators. Users of these services also need to be aware of data theft or viruses.
However, large services, such as MySpace and Netlog, 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 that was altered or removed by the user may in fact be retained and/or passed to third parties.
This danger was highlighted when the controversial social networking site Quechup harvested e-mail addresses from users’ e-mail accounts for use in a spamming operation.  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.  Privacy on social networking sites can be undermined by many factors. For example, users may disclose personal information, sites may not take adequate steps to protect user privacy, and third parties frequently use information posted on social networks for a variety of purposes. “For the Net generation, social networking sites have become the preferred forum for social interactions, from posturing and role playing to simply sounding off.
However, because such forums are relatively easy to access, posted content can be reviewed by anyone with an interest in the users’ personal information”.  Following plans by the UK government to monitor traffic on social networks schemes similar to E-mail jamming have been proposed for networks such as Twitter and Facebook. These would involve “friending” and “following” large numbers of random people to thwart attempts at network analysis. Data mining Through data mining, companies are able to improve their sales and profitability.
With this data, companies create customer profiles that contain customer demographics and online behavior. A recent strategy has been the purchase and production of “network analysis software”. This software is able to sort out through the influx of social networking data for any specific company.  Facebook has been especially important to marketing strategists. Facebook’s controversial and new “Social Ads” program gives companies access to the millions of profiles in order to tailor their ads to a Facebook user’s own interests and hobbies. However, rather than sell actual user information, Facebook sells tracked “social actions”.
That is, they track the websites a user uses outside of Facebook through a program called “Facebook Beacon”.  Notifications on websites There has been a trend for social networking sites to 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. Access to information Many social networking services, such as Facebook, provide the user with a choice of who can view their profile.
This prevents unauthorized user(s) from accessing their information.  Parents who want to access their child’s MySpace or Facebook account have become a big problem for teenagers who do not want their profile seen by their parents. By making their profile private, teens can select who may see their page, allowing only people added as “friends” to view their profile and preventing unwanted viewing of the profile by parents. Most teens are constantly trying to create a structural barrier between their private life and their parents. 45] To edit information on a certain social networking service account, the social networking sites require you to login or provide a password. This prevents unauthorized user(s) from adding, changing, or removing personal information, pictures, and/or other data. 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 Myspace profile created in the name of Josh Evans by Lori Janine Drew led to the suicide of Megan Meier. 46] 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 Facebook purporting to be that of a former schoolfriend Matthew Firsht, with whom Raphael had fallen out in 2000. The page falsely claimed that Firsht was homosexual and that he was dishonest. At the same time, genuine use of social networking services has been treated with suspicion on the ground of the services’ misuse.
A certain number of actions have been engaged by governments to better understand the problem and find some solutions. [specify] A 2008 panel concluded that technological fixes such as age verification and scans are relatively ineffective means of apprehending online predators.  In May 2010, a child pornography social networking site with hundreds of members was dismantled by law enforcement. It was deemed “the largest crimes against children case brought anywhere by anyone. “ Trolling Main article: Troll (Internet)
A common misuse of social networking sites such as Facebook is that it is occasionally used to emotionally abuse individuals. Such actions are often referred to as trolling. It is not rare for confrontations in the real world to be translated online.  Trolling can occur in many different forms, such as (but not limited to) defacement of deceased person(s) tribute pages, name calling, playing online pranks on volatile individuals and controversial comments with the intention to cause anger and cause arguments. Trolling is not to be confused with cyber-bullying. edit]Online bullying Online bullying, also called cyber-bullying, is a relatively common occurrence and it can often result in emotional trauma for the victim. Depending on the networking outlet, up to 39% of users admit to being “cyber-bullied”.  Danah Boyd, a researcher of social networks quotes a teenager in her article, Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites. The teenager expresses frustration towards networking sites like MySpace because it causes drama and too much emotional stress.  There are not many limitations as to what individuals can post when online.
Inherently individuals are given the power to post offensive remarks or pictures that could potentially cause a great amount of emotional pain for another individual. Interpersonal communication Interpersonal communication has been a growing issue as more and more people have turned to social networking as a means of communication. “Benniger (1987) describes how mass media has gradually replaced interpersonal communication as a socializing force. Further, social networking sites have become popular sites for youth culture to explore themselves, relationships, and share cultural artifacts”.
A Privacy Paradox Many teens and social networking users may be harming their interpersonal communication by using sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Stated by Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford University Neuroscientist, “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment. “ The convenience which social network sites give users to communicate with one another can also damage their interpersonal communication.
Sherry Turkle, the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, stated, “Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed–and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing (Turkle 154). ” Furthermore, social network sites can create insincere friendships, Turkle also noted, “They nurture friendships on social-networking sites and then wonder if they are among friends.
They become confused about companionship (Turkle 17). ” Psychological effects of social networking As social networking sites have risen in popularity over the past years, people have been spending an excess amount of time on social networking sites and on the Internet in general. The excessive amount of time that people spend on social networking sites has led researchers to debate the establishment of Internet addiction as an actual clinical disorder.  Social networking can also affect the extent to which a person feels lonely.
In a Newsweek article, Johannah Cornblatt explains “Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. ” John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, claims that social networking can foster feelings of sensitivity to disconnection, which can lead to loneliness.  Patents Number of US social network patent applications published per year and patents issued per year There has been rapid growth in the number of US patent applications that cover new technologies related to social networking.
The number of published applications has been growing rapidly since 2003. There are now over 3500 published applications. As many as 7000 applications may be currently on file including those that haven’t been published yet.  Only about 400  of these applications have issued as patents, however, largely due to the multi-year backlog in examination of business method patents and the difficulty in getting these patent applications allowed.  It has been reported that social networking patents are important for the establishment of new start-up companies. 60] It has also been reported, however, that social networking patents inhibit innovation.  On June 15, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon. com a patent for a “Social Networking System” based on its ownership of PlanetAll.  The patent describes a Social Networking System as A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations.
The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.  The patent has garnered attention due to its similarity to the popular social networking site Facebook. 64] Investigations Main article: Use of social network websites in investigations Social networking services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations. Information posted on sites such as MySpace and Facebook has been used by police (forensic profiling), probation, and university officials to prosecute users of said sites. In some situations, content posted on MySpace has been used in court.  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.  One UK police force has sifted pictures from Facebook and arrested some people who had been photographed in a public place holding a weapon such as a knife (having a weapon in a public place is illegal).  Application domains Government applications Social networking is more recently being used by various government agencies.
Social networking tools serve as a quick and easy way for the government to get the opinion of the public and to keep the public updated on their activity. The Centers for Disease Control demonstrated the importance of vaccinations on the popular children’s site Whyville and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a virtual island on Second Life where people can explore underground caves or explore the effects of global warming.  Similarly, NASA has taken advantage of a few social networking tools, including Twitter and Flickr. They are using these tools to aid the Review of U. S.
Human Space Flight Plans Committee, whose goal it is to ensure that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space.  Business applications The use of social networking services in an enterprise context presents the potential of having a major impact on the world of business and work (Fraser & Dutta 2008). Social networks connect people at low cost; this can be beneficial for entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to expand their contact bases. 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 LinkedIn. com, which aims to interconnect professionals. LinkedIn has over 100 million users in over 200 countries.  Another is the use of physical spaces available to members of a social network such as Hub Culture, an invitation only social network for entrepreneurs, and other business influentials, with Pavilions in major cities such as London, UK.
Having a physical presence allows members to network in the real world, as well as the virtual, adding extra business value. Applications for social networking sites have extended toward businesses and brands are creating their own, high functioning sites, a sector known as brand networking. It is the idea a brand can build its consumer relationship by connecting their consumers to the brand image on a platform that provides them relative content, elements of participation, and a ranking or score system.
Brand networking is a new way to capitalize on social trends as a marketing tool. Dating applications See also: Online dating service. Many social networks provide an online environment for people to communicate and exchange personal information for dating purposes. Intentions can vary from looking for a one time date, short-term relationships, and long-term relationships.  Most of these social networks, just like online dating services, require users to give out certain pieces of information.
This usually includes a user’s age, gender, location, interests, and perhaps a picture. Releasing very personal information is usually discouraged for safety reasons.  This allows other users to search or be searched by some sort of criteria, but at the same time people can maintain a degree of anonymity similar to most online dating services. Online dating sites are similar to social networks in the sense that users create profiles to meet and communicate with others, but their activities on such sites are for the sole purpose of finding a person of interest to date.
Social networks do not necessarily have to be for dating; many users simply use it for keeping in touch with friends, and colleagues.  However, an important difference between social networks and online dating services is the fact that online dating sites usually require a fee, where social networks are free.  This difference is one of the reasons the online dating industry is seeing a massive decrease in revenue due to many users opting to use social networking services instead. Many popular online dating services such as Match. om, Yahoo Personals, and eHarmony. com are seeing a decrease in users, where social networks like MySpace and Facebook are experiencing an increase in users.  The number of Internet users in the U. S. that visit online dating sites has fallen from a peak of 21% in 2003 to 10% in 2006.  Whether its the cost of the services, the variety of users with different intentions, or any other reason, it is undeniable that social networking sites are quickly becoming the new way to find dates online. Educational applications
The National School Boards Association reports that almost 60 percent of students who use social networking talk about education topics online and, surprisingly, more than 50 percent talk specifically about schoolwork. Yet the vast majority of school districts have stringent rules against nearly all forms of social networking during the school day — even though students and parents report few problem behaviors online. Social networks focused on supporting relationships between teachers and their students are now used or learning, educator professional development, and content sharing. Ning for teachers, Learn Central, TeachStreet and other sites are being built to foster relationships that include educational blogs, eportfolios, formal and ad hoc communities, as well as communication such as chats, discussion threads, and synchronous forums. These sites also have content sharing and rating features. Social networks are also emerging as online yearbooks, both public and private. One such service is MyYearbook which allows anyone from the general public to register and connect.
A new trend emerging are private label yearbooks only accessible by students, parents and teachers of a particular school similar to Facebook beginning within Harvard.  Finance applications The use of virtual currency systems inside social networks create new opportunities for global finance. Hub Culture operates a virtual currency Ven used for global transactions among members, product sales and financial trades in commodities and carbon credits.   In May 2010, Carbon pricing contracts were introduced to the weighted basket of currencies and commodities that determine the floating exchange value of Ven.
The introduction of carbon to the calculation price of the currency made Ven the first and only currency that is linked to the environment.  Medical applications 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. 82] 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.  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, PatientsLikeMe offers its members the chance to connect with others dealing with similar issues and research patient data related to their condition.
For alcoholics and addicts, SoberCircle gives 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. DailyStrength is also a website that offers support groups for a wide array of topics and conditions, including the support topics offered by PatientsLikeMe and SoberCircle. SparkPeople offers community and social networking tools for peer support during weight loss. Social and political applications
Social networking sites have recently showed a value in social and political movements. In the Egyptian revolution, Facebook and Twitter both played a pivotal role in keeping people connected to the revolt. Egyptian activist have credited social networking sites with providing a platform for planning protest and sharing news from Tahrir Square in real time. By presenting a platform for thousands of people to instantaneously share videos of mainly events featuring brutality, social networking proves to be a vital tool in revolutions.