Online social networks facilitate communication
Whether it's My-Space, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even a local product like People Bridge, only social networks are all the rage nowadays. However, except among mostly younger people, a large percentage of the populace isn't familiar with the concept or benefits of using them.
Social networks have actually been around for years, built on technical services that predate the modern World Wide Web. Like-minded folks (geeks) took advantage of such services, including e-mail and usenet (news groups), to build social structures and exchange information. Electronic bulletin boards were used for similar purposes.
The contemporary online social network is a Web site that facilitates communication among friends, family members or other social or business groups. Typically, members create profiles for themselves, which may include pictures, music, videos, Web pages, and blogs.
Users can control who they are friends with, as well as what information can be viewed. Typically, groups that share common interests or affiliations can be created among these friends.
Some folks view this as a competition, trying to garner as many friends as possible. As such, it's not unusual to receive friend requests from people you do not know.
The main attraction to social networks is that they allow people to easily stay in touch with any number of friends. Log in to one site and you instantly know what's up with everyone. It's also cheap; most social networks make their money by selling ads.
As such, it's not hard to see the utility of this concept for purposes other than simply socializing. For example, professional groups, such as doctors or accountants, can exchange information with their peers, who have been screened before being allowed to join. Targeted ads can be placed on such networks.
Of course, as with any new product, social networks do have warts.
Next time around, we'll examine some of those in detail. These include protection of minors, harassment and privacy.
Some of these are rather significant, but in our opinion, do not threaten the viability of social networks. This technology is here to stay.