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Cyber Security Mauritius>Types of Social Networking

Types of Social Networking


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This section attempts to order the current range of social networking services available, and outlines two main formats: sites that are primarily organised around users’ profiles, and those that are organised around collections of content. However, it is important to remember that services differ and may be characterised by more than one category.

Users may also tailor the intended use of platforms to suit their own interests. For instance, sites that are primarily profile focused may be used by individuals to showcase media collections or be used as a work space for particular topics or events. Educators setting up private groups to collaborate and use tools are a great example of how social networking services can be tailored for users’ own ends.
Profile-based social networking services

Profile-based services are primarily organised around members’ profile pages – pages that mainly consist of information about an individual member, including the person’s picture and details of interests, likes and dislikes. Bebo, Facebook and MySpace are all good examples of profile-based services.

Users develop their spaces in various ways, and can often contribute to each other’s spaces, typically leaving text, embedded content or links to external content through message walls, comment or evaluation tools. Users often include third-party content (in the form of widgets) to enhance their profiles or as a way of including information from other web services and social networking services.

Content-based social networking services

In these services, the user’s profile remains an important way of organising connections, but plays a secondary role to the posting of content. Photo-sharing site Flickr is an example of this type of service, one in which groups and comments are based around pictures. Many people have empty Flickr accounts and signed up to the service to view their friends’ or family’s permission-protected pictures.

Shelfari is one of the current crop of book-focused sites, with the member’s “bookshelf” being a focal point of each member’s profile.

Other examples of content-based communities include YouTube.com for video sharing and last.fm, in which the content is arranged by software that monitors and represents the music that users listen to. In last.fm, content is generated by the user’s activity. The act of listening to audio files creates and updates profile information (“recently listened to”). This in turn generates data about an individual user’s “neighbours” – people who have recently listened to the same kind of music.

White-label social networking services

Most social networking services offer some group-building functionality, which allows users to form mini-communities within sites.

Platforms such as PeopleAggregator and Ning, which launched in 2004, offer members a different model. These sites offer members the opportunity to create and join communities. Users can create their own “mini-MySpaces”– small-scale social networking sites that support specific interests, events or activities. Setting up and running a social networking service also means increased responsibility and liability of the creator or host for on-site activity.

These sites offer members the opportunity to create and join communities – this means that users can create their own “mini-MySpace’s”, small scale, personalised social networking sites about whatever the creator wants them to be about.

Multi-user virtual environments

Sites such as Second Life and World of Warcraft – online virtual environments – allow users to interact with each other’s avatars. (An avatar is a virtual representation of the site member.) Although the users have profile cards, their functional profiles are the characters they customise or build and control. Friends lists are usually private and not publicly shared or displayed.

Mobile social networking services

Many social networking sites, for example MySpace and Twitter, offer mobile phone versions of their services, allowing members to interact with their friends via their phones. Increasingly, too, there are mobile-led and mobile-only communities, which include profiles and media-sharing just as with web-based social networking services. MYUBO, for example, allows users to share and view video over mobile networks

Micro-blogging/presence updates

Micro-blogging services such as Twitter and Jaiku allow you to publish short (140 characters, including spaces) messages publicly or within contact groups. These services are designed to work as mobile services, but are popularly used on the web as well.

Many services offer status updates – short messages that can be updated to let people know what mood you are in or what you are doing. These can be checked within the site, read as text messages on phones, or exported to be read or displayed elsewhere. They engage users in constantly updated conversation and contact with their online networks.

Social search

Social search engines are an important web development which utilise the popularity of social networking services. There are various kinds of social search engine, but sites like Wink and Spokeo generate results by searching across the public profiles of multiple social networking sites, allowing the creation of web-based dossiers on individuals. This type of people search cuts across the traditional boundaries of social networking site membership, although any data retrieved should already be in the public domain.

What do people do in Social Networking Sites?
  • Communicating with existing networks, making and developing friendships/contacts
  • Represent themselves online, create and develop an online presence
  • Viewing content/finding information
  • Creating and customising profiles
  • Authoring and uploading content
  • Adding and sharing content
  • Posting messages – public & private
  • Collaborating with other people

People use social networking services for countless activities. Among the most common uses, however, are:

Connecting with existing networks, making and developing friendships/contacts

Young people tend to use social networking services to communicate and socialise with their contacts and consolidate their existing friendship networks. However, in the same way that some children and young people collect trading cards or kinds of toy, some young people use social networks to collect contacts to display their popularity.

Represent themselves online and create and develop an online presence

Social networking services provide purpose-built spaces for members to create and present an online representation of themselves, either within friendship or wider networks

Viewing content and/or finding information

As well as keeping up to date with what other people are doing, you can use social networking services to generate recommendations based on likes and activities. Social networking services are awash with content – pictures, music, video, as well as event, organisation and topic information.

Creating and customising profiles

There are many different kinds of profiles, although they typically consist of a web page supported by a range of tools. Profile pages are not just lists of information – they allow members to develop and present an image of themselves to the world, and to establish and project their online identities. Displays of preferences (favourite music, books and films, for example) allow members to share information about themselves.

Most social networking sites also allow members to customise the look and feel of their pages to a greater or lesser extent, through page templates or content, including video, widgets, music and images.

Authoring and uploading your own content

Content might be in the form of messages or blog posts – it might also be photos, video or music.

Adding and sharing third-party content

Third-party content might be in the form of links or embedded content hosted somewhere else – for example, a video hosted at YouTube or another video-hosting service, but playable on a member’s profile page.

Content may be added in widget form – widgets can be simple badges (pictures with links back to other sites) or dynamic content, for example, a slide show or the last songs catalogued by a last.fm account. This type of dynamic content makes it easy to move information, content and links from one social networking service to another. Quizzes and polls are also very popular. Some services allow you to create quizzes or compare yourself with other people on your contacts list who have also answered questions or added a particular application.

Posting messages – public and private

Many services support public and private messaging through message boards or in-service email. MySpace and Facebook offer members an instant messaging system.

Collaborating with other people

By using service tools to create groups, users can, for example, collectively create profiles, hold discussions, and store, share and comment on objects. In-service messaging can be a rich source of informal collaboration.