A Web site that provides a virtual community for people interested in a particular subject, to simply "hang out" together or to increase their circle of acquaintances. There are dating sites, friendship sites, sites with a business purpose and hybrids that offer a combination of these. Globally, hundreds of millions have joined one or more social sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.|
Members create their own online "profile" with biographical data, pictures and any other information they choose to post. They communicate with each other by making their latest thoughts public in a blog-like format or via e-mail, instant messaging, voice or videoconferencing to selected members. The service lets members find and invite other members into their personal network (to "friend" them) as well as invite friends of friends (see friending). A photo sharing capability may also be provided.
How It Started
Named for "six degrees of separation," SixDegrees.com was the first social site from 1997 to 2001. It was followed in 2002 by Friendster (www.friendster.com) and then MySpace (www.myspace.com) a year later. Started by two friends, MySpace became extremely popular, and its parent company, Intermix, was acquired by News Corporation for $580 million two years after MySpace was launched. See MySpace.
Facebook (www.facebook.com) came out in 2004 targeting college students, but when it opened to everyone, it grew exponentially to become the top social site (see Facebook). Two years later, Twitter was launched, and although a different approach, it created its own revolution within a short time (see Twitter).
Social Site Trends
1. Prospective Employees
Employers can use information on social sites to learn about prospective employees. Reading profiles and perusing photos has become standard for human resources departments in some companies. One's job search could be affected accordingly.
2. Cellphone Applications
The cellphone potential for socializing is growing all the time, and mobile features allow users to continue their experience when away from home, school or office. The GPS feature built into many smartphones adds the twist of knowing where friends are at any given moment.
3. The 21st Century Portal
Socially-established sites are becoming content-conscious. Pundits believe that in the future, all content portals will have characteristics of social networking. Moreover, beyond the sense of belonging that might be sought, people will visit these sites to be entertained or to find useful information. Social networking sites compete for attention much like the first Web portals did when the Internet exploded onto the scene in the mid-1990s. Variations are always emerging. For a list of major social sites, see social networking Web sites.