The Concept Of Social Networking Media Essay

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This chapter introduces the concept of social networking and its uses within society. It also looks at ways in which social networking can progress into the future. The topics that will be discussed in this chapter include looking at the design, evaluating and analysing the eight social networking websites. The software used to create the website will also be discussed alongside the HCI guidelines.

2.2.1 What is Social Networking?

"Social networking is defined as the bringing individuals together into to specific groups, often like a small community or a neighbourhood."[1]

Social networking has been around forever. Everyone has friends and networks through them. However from the age of the Internet social networking has really sprung up. This is because unlike meeting new people through work colleagues the Internet is filled with billions of individuals who are looking to meet other Internet users and develop new friendships.

"What makes social network websites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to express and make visible their social networks. This can result in links between individuals that would not otherwise be made, but that is often not the goal, and these meetings are frequently between "latent ties" who share some offline connection." [2]

2.2 History of Social networking was the first social networking website ever to be launched. It was launched in 1997 and lasted only three and a half years. Looking back, its founder believes that SixDegrees was simply ahead of its time. SixDegrees allowed users to create profiles and list their friends from its launch. SixDegrees selling tool was that it helped people connect with others and send instant messages. Although this was revolutionary and attracted millions of users, SixDegrees downfall was that it did not have enough functionality and in turn it failed to become a sustainable business.

The next big social networking websites were dating websites. Many users found the perfect partner, but with the same downfall as SixDegrees the main limitation of dating websites were that in the early days of the Internet there were not many users online. In addition to this browsing speeds were slow due to dial-up modems.

The next big social networking website to be launched was in 2001. This was the start of trade and business networks on the Internet. The creator of Ryze first show cased his website to business people and entrepreneurs within the city of San Francisco. These business people could see the future of social networking and wanted to invest in it. The creators of Ryze, Tribe, LinedIn and FriendSter were all strongly connected personally and professionally. Their philosophy was that they could all support each other without challenging each other.

"In the end, Ryze never acquired mass popularity, grew to attract a passionate niche user base, LinkedIn became a powerful business service, and Friendster became the most significant, if only as "one of the biggest disappointments in Internet history"[3] (Chafkin, 2007, p. 1).


Figure - 1 - Timeline of the launch dates of many major SNSs and dates when community sites re-launched with SNS features.

2.2.3 Social Networking Websites Hit the Big-Time

2003 was the year many new and exciting social networking websites were launched. Many of these new social networks were profile driven, trying to duplicate the short lived success of FriendSter. As these social networking websites were being used by a wide amount of users, professional driven websites such as LinkedIn, Visible Path and Xing centre on the business community at large.

Few analysts or journalists noticed when MySpace launched in Santa Monica, California, hundreds of miles from the heart of technology, Silicon Valley. MySpace was created in 2003 to compete with sites like Friendster, Xanga, and AsianAvenue. The founders wanted to attract estranged Friendster users.

Rumours were spreading that Friendster were going to start charging users to use their system. The users then rallied against Friendster in protest and posted messages on their profiles urging other users to sign-up to alternate social networking websites. One of these included was MySpace. Because of this disapproval with Friendster, MySpace became flooded with new users. One particularly notable group that encouraged others to switch were indie-rock bands who were expelled from Friendster for failing to comply with profile regulations.

MySpace was more users friendly and relaxed about regulations, and although MySpace was not launched with bands in mind they were made welcome. Indie-rock bands from all over the world began creating profiles, and local promoters used MySpace to advertise new bands to the world. MySpace embraced this and made contact with local bands and musicians alike too find ways of supporting them. Bands were not the sole source of MySpace growth, but the symbiotic relationship between bands and fans helped MySpace expand beyond former Friendster users. The bands-and-fans vibrant was mutually valuable: Bands wanted to be able to contact fans, while fans desired attention from their favourite bands and used friend connections to signal identity and affiliation.

Teenagers began joining MySpace as a whole in 2004. Unlike older users, most teens were never on Friendster. Some joined because they wanted to connect with their favourite bands; others were introduced to the site through older family members. As teens began signing up, they encouraged their friends to join. Rather than rejecting underage users, MySpace changed its user policy to allow minors. As the site grew, three distinct populations began to form: musicians/artists, teenagers, and the post-college urban social crowd. On the whole, the latter two groups did not interact with one another except through bands. Because of the lack of mainstream press coverage during 2004, few others noticed the site's growing popularity.

"Then, in July 2005, News Corporation purchased MySpace for $580 million, attracting massive media attention."[5] Subsequently issues surrounding safety arose concerning MySpace. "The site was implicated in a series of sexual interactions between adults and minors, prompting legal action"[6]. "A moral panic concerning sexual predators quickly spread, although research suggests that the concerns were exaggerated." [7]

2.5 A Global Phenomenon

By 2004 social networking websites were growing at a rapid speed. "Friendster gained momentum in the Pacific Islands, Orkut became the premier social networking website in Brazil before growing rapidly in India"[8]

There were also smaller countries that adapted to the social networking phoneme. Namely Latin American countries widely used a social networking website called Hi5. Japan widely used Mixi, LunarStorm took off in Sweden and UK and Ireland users embraced Bebo. In addition to this previously admired communication and community services began implementing social networking features onto their websites.

Blogging has turned into a new way of media. Blogging websites with SNS features are very popular. In the US websites that integrate both blogging and SNS features, such as LiveJournal, Xanga and Vox have a wide and loyal following. In France Skyrock is king, and Windows Live Spaces dominate various markets worldwide, including Spain, Italy and Mexico. While English speaking blogging and SNS websites are huge, SNS's like QQ and Live Spaces are just as large in active user sizes as MySpace. But they don't generate as much coverage in the US because their first language used in not English, therefore this makes it harder to track their impact in the social networking world.

2.5 Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

"Human Computer Interaction, or HCI, is the study, planning, and design of what happens when you and a computer work together. As its name implies, HCI consists of three parts: the user, the computer itself, and the ways they work together" (Nicky Danino, 2001).

Ben Shneiderman proposed this collection of principles that are derived heuristically from experience and applicable in most interactive systems after being properly refined, extended, and interpreted.

These principles were set in place to guide users to better their interfaces and make them more user friendly. If the creator were to follow these eight steps they would have created a ascetically pleasing looking interface which the user could then interact with.