A social network service focuses on enabling virtual communities that allow for the building and reflecting of social networks or social relationships among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and allow for online communities to be created so that users can interact over the internet, such as by using e-mail, instant messaging and bulletin board services.
The main types of social networking services are those which contain category divisions (such as former school-year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook, Bebo and Twitter widely used worldwide; MySpace and LinkedIn being the most widely used in North America; Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, Hi5, StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe; Orkut and Hi5 in South America and Central America; and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, Xiaonei and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and Orkut and Facebook in India.
There have been some attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate entries of friends and interests (see the FOAF standard and the Open Source Initiative), but this has led to some concerns about privacy.
Access to information
Many social networking services, such as Facebook, provide the user with a choice of who can view their profile. This prevents unauthorized user(s) from accessing their information. Parents have become a big problem to teens who want to avoid their parents to access their MySpace or Facebook accounts. By choosing to make their profile private, teens are able to select who can see their page and this prevents unwanted parents from lurking. This will also mean that only people who are added as "friends" will be able to view the profile. Teens are constantly trying to create a structural barrier between their private life and their parents.
To edit information on a certain social networking service account, the social networking sites require you to login or provide an access code. This prevents unauthorized user(s) from adding, changing, or removing personal information, pictures, and/or other data.
Potential for misuse
The relative freedom afforded by social networking services has caused concern regarding the potential of its misuse by individual patrons. In October 2006, a fake Myspace profile created in the name of Josh Evans by Lori Janine Drew led to the suicide of Megan Meier. The event incited global concern regarding the use of social networking services for bullying purposes.
In July 2008, a Briton, Grant Raphael, was ordered to pay a total of GBP £22,000 (about USD $44,000) for libel and breach of privacy. Raphael had posted a fake page on Facebook purporting to be that of a former schoolfriend Matthew Firsht, with whom Raphael had fallen out in 2000. The page falsely claimed that Firsht was homosexual and that he was dishonest.
Risk for child safety
Citizens and governments have been concerned by a misuse by child and teenagers of social network services, particularly in relation to online sexual predators. A certain number of actions have been engaged by governments to better understand the problem and find some solutions.[specify] A 2008 panel concluded that technological fixes such as age verification and scans are relatively ineffective means of apprehending online predators.
A common misuse of social networking sites such as Facebook is that it is occasionally used to emotionally abuse individuals. Such actions are often referred to as trolling. It is not rare for confrontations in the real world to be translated online.Trolling can occur in many different forms, such as (but not limited to) defacement of deceased person(s) tribute pages, name calling, playing online pranks on volatile individuals and controversial comments with the intention to cause anger and cause arguments. Trolling is not to be confused with cyber-bullying.
Online bullying is a relatively common occurrence and it can often result in emotional trauma for the victim. Danah Boyd, an individual familiar with social networks quotes a teenager in her article, Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites. The teenager expresses frustration towards networking sites like MySpace because it causes drama and too much emotional stress. There are not many limitations as to what individuals can post when online. Inherently individuals are given the power to post offensive remarks or pictures that could potentially cause a great amount of emotional pain for another individual.
Interpersonal communication has been a growing issue as more and more people have turned to social networking as a means of communication."Benniger (1987) describes how mass media has gradually replaced interpersonal communication as a socializing force. Further, social networking sites have become popular sites for youth culture to explore themselves, relationships, and share cultural artifacts"A Privacy Paradox Many teens and social networking users may be harming their interpersonal communication by using sites such as Facebook and Myspace.
There has been rapid growth in the number of US patent applications that cover new technologies related to social networking. The number of published applications has been growing rapidly since 2003. There are now over 3500 published applications. As many as 7000 applications may be currently on file including those that haven't been published yet. Only about 400 of these applications have issued as patents, however, largely due to the multi-year backlog in examination of business method patents and the difficulty in getting these patent applications allowed.
It has been reported that social networking patents are important for the establishment of new start up companies. It has also been reported, however, that social networking patents inhibit innovation.On June 15, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon.com a patent for "Social Networking System" based on its ownership of PlanetAll.The patent describes a Social Networking System as
A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.
The patent has garnered attention due to its similarity to the popular social networking site Facebook.