Collaboration on the Internet:Social Networking Websites

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By Ashley Kaye
18:59, 17 May 2006 (PDT)


Contents

Abstract

This research report provides insight into how the Internet has become a massive collaborative environment, especially with social networking websites (see Social Networking Website). There are several different types of networking sites and some are blatantly social, e.g. MySpace.com, while others offer social networking in a more subtle way, e.g. Craigslist.org. Anyone with access to these networking websites can collaboratively add to the content of the site. This can be done by making a profile, submitting pictures, leaving comments. In some cases - in a wiki format - a user can delete or edit other users work. Social networking is in itself a collaborative effort because it requires more than one person. This report presents the different websites and features that users can utilize to further this relatively modern form of collaboration that is taking place.


Description

A look at various and specific networking sites located on the World Wide Web that utilize collaborative features to help users socialize.


Analysis and Evaluation

In the past couple of decades, Internet use has skyrocketed. The World Wide Web has gotten rid of several limitations the world had been faced with before Internet creation. If you have a computer and a decent Internet connection speed, it is possible to research a vast library of resources from home instead of traveling to a library or perhaps another city, state, or country. While the Internet has grown by allowing its users access to its many websites and resources in the past decade it has also grown immensely for the use of social networking.

A Social Networking Website, as defined by Wikipedia.org, is a website that allows for social networks to be made and opens up different forms of communication. There are many different types of social networking websites available on the World Wide Web. Examples of these websites include online dating sites and open market sites, such as eBay.com. These websites allow users to communicate in a variety of different ways. What is interesting about these websites is the collaboration involved in their evolution, as well as the business aspects and communication aspects involved in their creation and upkeep.

An important thing to note is that these websites have grown in the past decade or so by means of technology, design, and the prospect of advertisement space. Social software has evolved into a great technology used to connect people through the Internet or the World Wide Web. The social software used for this group of websites offers users the ability to network and to communicate more easily by way of using profiles. The use of profiles allows users to hone searches for particular networking interests. The type of website also determines what types of software might be used; such as a bulletin board or community website (such as a musical band’s Internet fan forum). Another type of software that can be used is the MediaWiki software used to make this particular website. The most important aspect of this software is it's ability to create a collaborative environment. Whether it allows the users only to start discussions with one another as on an Internet forum, or whether it allows users to have complete control of the content by adding, editing, or deleting anything on the site as with a wiki, a collaborative environment is undoubtably created. This type of collaboration is taking over the World Wide Web by storm.

Another form of collaboration that exists on these websites is in the advertisement business. Because major websites get so much traffic in one day, businesses scramble to advertise on these websites and will pay big bucks to see it happen. MySpace.com is one social networking website that has been bought for about $580 million dollars in part for advertisement purposes {Why Murdoch Really Bought MySpace?}. The collaboration present here is that the users create profiles by entering information about themselves into the website. This information is used to select advertisements that cater to those particular interests; and because these websites are so heavily trafficked, users will eventually come across the ads and their interest may be piqued.


MySpace.com

Tom Anderson’s Profile on MySpace.com

MySpace.com is a notable social networking domain, as it appears in the top ten visited websites list (Top Web sites for March 2006). MySpace started out as a place on the web to view up and coming musical acts and bands. With time, however, MySpace extended it's audience to non-musicians by setting up features that allow users to create profiles that depict personal interests. By making these interests into internal hyperlinks, MySpace creates networking by allowing users to find others that share similar interests in movies, books, television and many other activities. By entering this information, users are indeed collaborating to form a social network. MySpace boasts features such as photo posting (limited), uploading videos, interest groups, calendars, blogs, and the newest feature is MySpace mobile, which allow users to access MySpace from their wireless phones.

While still being a place for musical bands to promote themselves, MySpace is a network of over 70 million users. This large network of people attracts marketers with interest in the where Internet users spend their time. The majority of users are in the age range of 16-25 years old, which puts them in the most desirable demographic for advertising. (How MySpace Works).

This creates an even larger network of people using the site, counting the creators and programmers of MySpace.com as well as the advertisers. The collaboration that exists in this space is: the environment that is created at first by the programmers which is then changed to add their own design and interests, followed by the advertisers who gather users' interests to post advertisements that will pique their interest.


Facebook.com

Facebook.com

Another networking website of interest is Facebook.com. Facebook was founded by Harvard Student Mark Zuckerberg as a social directory for the people attending Harvard. It quickly spread to the other Ivy Leagues before adding 2,000 or more universities and colleges around the nation to the network. This networking website is different than MySpace.com in that it is “a directory that is reinforcing a physical community. What exists on the site is a mirror image of what exists in real life (Exclusive Interview With Mark Zuckerberg).” Zuckerberg explains that what makes his creation different from other social networking websites is that it is based on physicality and the need for a directory; needs which often overlap.

The Facebook operates in a way that may be agreeable for some while disagreeable for others. At first, the website was only used for college campuses. Recently, it has been made available to high schools across the nation as well as to the common workplace. Unlike MySpace it limits the viewing of users' profiles. A user must be part of the same network to view another users' profile, unless they are connected as friends. It does create a separation between networks but also allows for more organized networking. According to Chris Hughes, co-founder and spokesperson, this feature makes Facebook a safer networking site than others such as MySpace (Facebook allows old friends to meet up jpeg-to-jpeg).

Collaboration that takes place on the Facebook starts with Mark Zuckerberg and his pals coming together to create and man this monster website. As users register and connect with their friends through networks, they are able to view profiles and make comments on each others' “walls” (comment spaces located on each profile), browse through a friend’s uploaded photo albums and join groups. The group feature is interesting in that it only allows users to join groups that occur in their own network. This creates a sense of community among the different networks online. While each and every user that is registered on Facebook is part of the entire network, somehow the smaller networks of single campuses and businesses creates a more collaborative community. A new feature called “pulse shows popular listings and trends on Facebook in the last seven days. (Facebook allows old friends to meet up jpeg-to-jpeg).” This information is the most blatant collaboration information on the website. It shows what each community is interested as a whole at least for the majority. It also gives fun facts about your own network’s users such as “3.8% more UCSB people listed Simpsons than Sex and the City.Facebook Pulse” According to Rolling Stone Facebook is worth about $1 billion. The new Pulse feature has also been described as a “direct-marketer’s dream” (The Web's Hottest Site: Facebook.com). As listed on the Facebook’s About page on the website they have become the number one website for photo uploading. A user is allowed to upload an unlimited amount of photos and create photo albums for their friends and users in their same network to view. A great and collaborative aspect of Facebook’s photo uploading is that it allows the user to tag the photos they have uploaded, creating a network on one single photo. The collaborative efforts that are present in the Facebook extend the physical nature of a campus to the online world where things can be easily organized in one area.


Craigslist.org

Craigslist.org

Craigslist.org is a more subtle networking website. While not completely different from MySpace and Facebook, Craigslist works as a classified section you would find in the newspaper, except that it's postings are updated all the time. Many U.S. cities have their own sections, as do several different countries. According to U.S. News, “Five million people a month visit the no-frills franchise that is part town hall, part free-for-all, and part classifieds (How do I love craig? Let me list the ways).” It is also mentioned that while Craigslist has gone unnoticed by millions of Internet browsers, it's audience range is 20-30 year olds. This is because Craigslist is set up like a bulletin board for each city that it serves. There listings posted for virtually anything imaginable, such as houses, jobs, furniture, and local events.

Craiglist - unlike other networking websites - offers a "no frills" design. It is set up like a bulletin board and designed to be organized like a bulletin board. While social networking literally occurs all over the website there are special places that are designated for this specific purpose. The “personals” section has several different areas in which people engage in networking.
Craigslist personals.JPG
Within this area people post messages looking for platonic relationships offline that involve activities such as lunching, hiking on the weekends or a simple game of tennis. On the other end of the spectrum, there is an area for users to seek out others for romantic or sexual encounters. There is also a place for “missed connections” where people make bulletin posts about a missed connection they made, perhaps making small talk with the person they stood in line with at the market but never got the chance to catch a name and telephone number.

Craigslist's simple and organized layout takes the emphasis off of the website itself, and places it on it's visitors. Their collaborative efforts create each separate community's section on the website.


Wikipedia.org

Wikipedia.JPG

Wikipedia, defining itself, “is an international Web-based free-content encyclopedia (Wikipedia on Wikipedia.” The Wikipedia website, because of the wiki software that it uses, can be considered one of the most, if not the most, collaborative networking websites on the World Wide Web. While this website is not an obvious form of social networking the “talk” pages located on each and every one of the Wikipedia articles may display registered user’s discussions on the topic at hand. This creates a network of people who share similar interests to help create, edit and discuss a specific topic.

The collaboration that takes place in this type of website can be viewed as an evolution. The material that is collaborated upon is constantly under construction as registered users edit and discuss different topics. While Wikipedia is heavier in the field of the collaborative process rather than social networking, Wikipedia.org is a website clearly interested in encyclopedic knowledge. The Wikipedia contains list pages that put so-called “Wikipedians” into categories. People who help create the articles and clean up existing articles each have user names. While no one is forced to create a user profile a feature for the purpose is present supporting a social network if desired. As with Craigslist Wikipedia, while being about the creation of an evolving and open encyclopedia, it also reinforces the idea of community and collaboration.


Works Cited & Referenced


Edited by Dan Hawley 04:20, 25 May 2006 (PDT)

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