Caught in the Web

Social Networking Websites: Hot Today, Probably Not Gone Tomorrow

by Laura Emery, Field Editor


Social networking isn’t just for kids anymore. With the increased popularity of sites like Facebook,, Flickr,, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the Internet is becoming a social playground for young and old alike.

Facebook is a popular, free-access social-networking website. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with others. People can also add friends, send them messages, and update their personal profile to notify friends about themselves. The website’s name refers to the paper facebooks depicting members of a campus community that some colleges give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus. Mark Zuckerburg founded Facebook as a 21-year-old student at Harvard University. Website membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Ivy League and Stanford University. It later expanded further to include any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone age 13 and older. The website currently has more than 500 million active users worldwide. According to Social Media Today, in April 2010 an estimated 41.6 percent of the U.S. population had a Facebook account.

It’s not uncommon to see television commercials that include entreaties at the end for the viewer to “Like” them on Facebook. Most websites you visit on the internet are also linked to Facebook; in fact, over 2.5 million websites have created their own Facebook pages — including Cooperative Living magazine (“Like” us at\cooperativeliving).

Facebook is popular because it connects people around the globe. It’s a place where you can share what’s happening in your life with a single sentence. 

Launched in May 2003 mainly for professional networking, as of March 2011, LinkedIn reported more than 100 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The site is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Quantcast reports LinkedIn has 21.4 million unique U.S. visitors and 47.6 million globally per month. The site allows registered users to maintain contact with people they know and trust in business. People in the list are called connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection.

This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways: A contact network is built consisting of direct connections, the connections of connections (second-degree connections) and connections of second-degree connections (third-degree connections). This can be used to gain an introduction to someone you wish to know through a mutual, trusted contact. It can be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one’s contact network. Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates. Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.

The “gated-access approach” (where contact with any professional requires either a preexisting relationship or the intervention of a contact) is intended to build trust among the service’s users. The searchable LinkedIn Groups feature allows users to establish new business relationships by joining alumni, industry, professional and other relevant groups.

Twitter is a free social-networking and blogging service that allows users to send and read others’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS, RSS, or email, or through applications that include Facebook. Twitter was produced in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched in July. Since then Twitter has gained popularity worldwide and is estimated to have 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day.

So how does Twitter work? You have 140 characters to describe what you are doing. It means just that. Whether you are at your computer or on your cell phone, you share your thoughts or actions in the moment. When you sign up, you have an inbox. You search the Twitter database for friends or people (including celebrities and companies) that you want to “follow.” The people you choose to follow create tweets. Their tweets show in your inbox and you can respond or “re-tweet” so your followers can view the messages.

MySpace is a popular social-networking website with an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, games, music, and videos for teenagers and adults. On MySpace, users load the site with photos, music, and information about their likes and dislikes. MySpace is a place where people can go to “broadcast” themselves by personal expression through music, art, poetry, etc.

MySpace is one of the world’s largest social networks, with about 125 million users. Originally inspired by Friendster, MySpace quickly grew to become the world’s largest social network, before being overtaken by its main competitor, Facebook, in April 2008, based on monthly unique visitors. User pages are easily customized and support integration with widgets such as Slide or YouTube. MySpace helps users connect via content and culture.


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