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Popularity of Social Network Services and user fees

Yesterday, E-Crime Expert posted a blog about the Development of Social Networking Systems on the Internet, as part of a 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.

All these examples of social network systems/services (SNS) were provided to show the evolution of human relations, interactions and networking. Indeed there is a great need and desire for people to interact with each other and these online forms of interaction embraced various forms such as: written, visual, musical, etc. People need to socialize, need to express themselves, need to exchange information. SNS also present a huge opportunity for people to become known publically, for example, they can express their artistic capabilities at no cost or very low cost (i.e. Justin Bieber-singer became a star because of his YouTube videos).

Those SNS became so popular and indispensable for users because there are provided these services free of charge. According to Jeff Jarvis: “Free it is impossible to compete against. The most efficient marketplace is a free marketplace.” Besides this, it is also more convenient for some people to socialize from their computer rather then going out to physically meet someone. When someone goes out with their friends, she can usually only meet a certain number of them, but with SNS she can interact in real time with hundreds of people.

Among all, Facebook has the highest audience and people around the world use this platform daily in order to interact, network, meet, share, and socialize with other people. In June 2010, 30.000 users in Canada closed their account symbolically as a form of protest to Facebook’s privacy intrusion. It was symbolic as this number represents a quarter of the total number of people that open an account daily at that time. Today, Facebook has the same amount of users as the Internet had in total in 2004!

SNS also, come together with some debatable hidden features as well. Besides the amazing opportunities given to human beings to socialize, these services have to be monetized (have to be profitable) in order for the developers to be able to provide them to the public at large. The monetization of SNS includes among classic advertising (i.e. someone buys time and space on a website and posts their advertisement), non-traditional ones too. This new form of advertising came with brand new features and concepts where the users could be individually targeted or grouped. According to Ken Auletta: Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have a vast number of users, but yet they are not profitable. Facebook and MySpace tried to sell user-friendly advertising such as the Nike brand for example. But according to Robert Pittman, the former President of AOL, this did not work because users did not want to be interrupted while interacting with other users and also they did not want to be identified with products they do not like, support or believe in. Though, in order to become profitable they need to find a solution to monetize their SNS. A solution to sell more advertising could work if they better knew their users’ profiles, preferences and private information and they could later sell it to commercial business or advertisers. Nonetheless that this does not come without some trades-off for users which what have to offer in exchange: their privacy, which is actually their “fee” for using these services!

Stay tunned for the next post which describes what is about the Retrieving Private Information From SNS’s Users.

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

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

Did you think that those SNS are really free of charge? Are you on Facebook? Which other SNS are you using?

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