Facebook is one of the most identifiable online social networks on college campuses because of its popularity among students.
The service recently announced that they had reached an astonishing 300 million active users of which, if combined worldwide, spend over six billion minutes on Facebook every day (Facebook Statistics). To put those numbers in a better perspective, that’s 100 million hours, or 11, 407.9553 years.
According to Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison, authors of “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” social networks must contain three elements in order to be named such. Those three elements are, “(1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (210-230).
All of the current social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace fall under these categories.
The first website to launch with the specifications for a social network was called SixDegrees.com, which opened its virtual doors in 1997. The service was the first to combine the three social networking principles into one site.
For two years after SixDegrees’ start there wasn’t much innovation in the world of social networks, but in 2001, others sites like LiveJournal started cropping up soon after.
In late 2000 SixDegrees was forced to shut down because the service could not find a profitable and sustainable business model (Boyd, 210-230).
To make a social network profitable, today’s variations on SixDegrees.com rely on online advertising as a way to get money and support the service.
From first-hand experience I know that advertising in the online space is very profitable and allows these companies to pay the bills and not fall into the same situation that SixDegrees.com did in 2000.
Hillary Clinton was the first to do this by frequently uploading campaign videos, holding virtual town meetings, and friending many people on Twitter and Facebook.
When Barack Obama announced that he would be running for president, his campaign website boasted a list of social networks that you could follow him on. Since his election, many of the government websites, including the FCC have listed social network accounts that allow you to follow their progress via Twitter and Facebook .
Doctors are not about to be left out of the social networking boom. According to the Health Affairs journal, a few health providers have taken to the social network as a way to spread medical help to patients who need at home attention (Hawn, 361-368).
When people first heard about the death of Michael Jackson, many turned to Twitter and in a matter of minutes, the social network was bogged down with traffic and the site failed.
Being able to broadcast not only what we are doing, but also our experiences in important or historical events is one of the uses of today’s social networks.
In January when the U.S. Airways plane crashed into the cold Hudson River in New York, bystander Janis Krums was the first to broadcast the event. Before the news reporters could get to the crash, Krums had already propagated the story and photo to his Twitter friends from his iPhone at the scene. The photo was then viewed almost 40,000 times over the course of four hours (Marrone).
Social networks today help to spread news quicker than ever before and allow almost immediate access to on-site “citizen journalists.”