Social networks refer to services on the Internet that help to build the social networks or social relationships among people. Many social networks build relationships based upon shared interests or activities. Social networking has turned into a large portion of what makes up today's media in the last 15 years, and it will likely to continue to grow every year.
When the World Wide Web began catching in popularity among mainstream culture in 1994 and 1995, the potential for social networking first became obvious. Early communities such as Theglobe.com, Geocities and Tripod.com featured many of the characteristics that today's social networks feature. Initially many of these sites featured chat rooms and forums where people could discuss interests and share ideas. In the late `90s some sites featured the ability to create a user profile and link the profile with a list of friends, as well as the option to seek out new friends with shared interests. Friendster launched in 2002, MySpace in 2003, and in 2004 Facebook launched, which is currently the most popular social network. Today hundreds of active social networking sites exist, many with some of the same characteristics of early social networks.
Most social networks have at least a few basic items in common. Most feature a profile where a user can upload information about his or herself as well as photos. Many encourage users to write blog entries or short status updates and share activities and interests; often there's a function to create a list of friends or contacts attached to the profile to easily see what these acquaintances are also sharing and interested in.
Social networking has become such a ubiquitous part of daily culture that universities have devoted entire classes to learning about the effects of such websites. People have begun investigating how social networks affect issues of identity, privacy, education, youth culture and social capital, among others. Many brands and businesses have begun to use social networking as a way to advertise themselves as well as monitor their online reputation. Many websites have built in new social networking functionality as a way to increase activity on their site. Social networking has become a major part of daily life for many people.
While there are hundreds of social networking sites that are currently popular throughout the world, Improve.com will cover the following: