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Development of Social Networking Systems on the Internet

From the same series that aims to contribute to a better understanding regarding why privacy and personal data are so vulnerable in relation with the Internet and its adjacent services/platforms, today’s post briefly describes the development of SNS on the Internet.

The Internet era came into place in 1974 when the first search network, between academic and research sites, based on the ARPANET project, which was developed in the 1960’s as a network project of the U.S. Department of Defence’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. This new technological development changed the human and social relations among people. Before, people understood that in order to exchange information, they should meet on a scheduled appointment with other people, send letters, make phone calls, and visit. But because of the Internet, these types of interactions changed. The exchange of information became very fast and if one wanted to have access to information fast and before someone else, they should adapt to the new way of exchanging information and interacting with other people. The human interactions became global and cheaper as people could exchange information from the comfort of their home or office, and in comparison to the mail, telegraph, telephone, cell phone, the Internet is more efficient (i.e. cost, time, speed) and more widespread among people from a social and professional perspective.

This transition has not been done over night, but started with Bulletin Board back in 1980’s. The Bulletin Board System (BBS), developed by Ward Christensen, allowed people to communicate with each other by exchanging messages and software using a central computer system. Later, CompuServe, pioneered by AOL, came into place and allowed users to exchange files and news in real time. It provided a portal where users got together to watch news, share impressions, files or to interact together. Originally, AOL was offered as a paid service. Also, their goal was to bring in and keep as many users as possible for as long as possible, on their portal in order to generate traffic and revenue from advertising. In 1997, the Blog concept was released having as scope to allow people post their day-to-day experience, knowledge and/or opinions and to receive feedback and comments from other users. Today, Technorati (a real-time search website for user-generated media, including weblogs, by tag or keyword and also providing popularity indexes) is currently tracking 112.8 millions blogs.

In 2002, in Romania (and also around the world) a new form of socializing was born: The Classmates (Colegi.ro). This website allowed users to connect with each other based on what school they graduated from, and to bring together colleagues who have not met for years so they could interact. In 2002, Friendster was also launched and they provided something unique to their users: the users had a circle of friends, which could interact with the circle of friends of other users. The concept was that a social community could exist among people that have common bonds.

In 2003, MySpace was released aiming to allow users to interact with each other through bulletins, groups, applications, instant messaging, video sharing, classifieds, news, forums and mobile usage. The idea of having virtual networking spaces became more and more in demand by the end of 2006, as MySpace registered 100 million users. LinkedIn was also released in 2003, and it aimed to offer a community for professionals looking for a job or simply networking with each other based on their professional interests. It is based on connections between the individual user and groups and users with other users. Someone can join multiple groups of interest on a certain topic and be updated with news from that group. Also, the professional profile or CV can be uploaded in order for other interested users to see someone’s working experience and skills if interested in collaboration or a working relation. Users can require and/or provide references for other users based on previous experiences in working with the individual. The types of groups include: colleagues from the same University, working place, and business partners or professor-student collaboration. As of 2010, Linkedin has 80 million users.

With all the different social network systems described above, the form and “package” differ from provider to provider but have one common, central nominator: people interacting with each other, socializing and communicating. Due to technological developments and the increasing demand for experiencing other forms of interaction supported by Web 2.0 platform, YouTube was released in 1995 to the public providing a website where people could share and watch other’s people videos, post comments, make communities, channels and do video blogging. Video categories include: animal videos, self-made artistic videos, how-to videos covering topics from how to tighten a screw or a bolt to how to build a bomb. In 2010, YouTube’s traffic counts 2 billion unique videos views per week.

In 2006, Twitter was developed and currently has more than 100 million users. Twitter is compared to “microblogging” allowing users to exchange messages (of a maximum of 140 characters) in real time when an Internet connection is available or as SMS (message sent via text messaging on a cell phone) when no Internet connection is available. Twitter supports updates among users in real time, based on categories of interest. Each person who “tweets” (writes messages on the Twitter social network system) has a list of friends called “followers”. A user can follow another user, which means they receive a feed “tweets” made by the user they are following. The same user could also be followed by another user as well, based on his or her personal interest and preferences. Twitter became popular because people do not need a computer to use it, because any Smart phone (i.e. HTC, iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc) can support a Twitter application and receive updates between the users in real time with or without an Internet connection.

In 2004, Facebook was developed, which was originally aimed to be a closed circuit among Harvard students for networking purposes among themselves. In 2011, Facebook is the current leader of social networking with over 800 million registered users. Facebook was not an unknown invention or phenomenon because MySpace and other platforms provided similar services. However, Facebook became the most successful one. Users set up their own account free of charge with the provider, and they started building relations with people they knew or did do not know. The friends of a user’s friends could “become friends” with the account holder (or in other words, have access to their account information/public page). Using this platform, users can exchange information, news, photos, files, sell/buy products, chat, play games or send messages instead using a classic email client such MSN or Yahoo. For users, it could be more convenient to send messages to other users or people in their “friends list” or to all of them at the same time, rather then sending messages individually and manually like in MSN and Yahoo’s case. The social interactions between an account holder and the people on his “friends list” can float freely without the receiving person needing to be online to acknowledge or interact in anyway in real time. The receiving person can login to their Facebook account and see the social activities and messages after they have occurred.

 

All these Social Networking opportunities brought people around the world together, borderless, in real time, sometimes with anonymity. All these features among others, make social networking so popular, so present in our lives but nonetheless so important for their “creators” in order to generate revenue in exchange to their users’ preferences, information, interaction. Most of these platforms are offered for “free” and nothing beats free. But actually those platforms and services are not for free as the main “fuel”  is exactly the users’ personal information, thoughts, interaction which generate trends, opinions, preferences so useful to advertisers and commercial businesses which wanted to find a new “market”, a new way to precisely sell their products to a very targeted audience and cliental. This eagerness of knowing more and more about their users’ preferences can have influence on their privacy as well.

Stay tunned for the next post which describes the development of Popularity of Social Network Services Among Users.

Any questions can be submitted to: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

Additional information can be found at: www.e-crimeexppert.com

When did you first use the Internet? When did you first start to socialize online? Which was you first SNS? Do you remember the beginnings of online socializing? Have you ever thought that Facebook will become so popular?

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  1. July 29, 2013 at 08:31

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this particularly great post
    on our website. Keep up the great writing.

  2. priyanka
    October 4, 2013 at 13:24

    wonderful

  1. October 7, 2011 at 09:45
  2. October 11, 2011 at 19:41
  3. October 31, 2011 at 09:49
  4. November 2, 2011 at 10:27

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