Friday, March 28, 2008

The Many Spaces and Faces of SNS!

Like the majority of people who know a bit about Social Networking Sites, I am most familiar with Facebook and to a lesser degree with MySpace, Friendster and Nexopia. However, when exploring SNS, I was totally unprepared for the vast numbers of Social Networking Sites!

Wikipedia lists over 100 social networking sites! When I went through them there were some that were definitely social in nature as they focused on a specific social-type feature such as blogging, photosharing, travel, hobbies, books, business, sports, music, video sharing, and games. I took a more critical stance and decided to explore only those sites that would be considered to be a conventional social networking site that included some if not all the previously mentioned features on their site and that appeared to allow only 13 year olds and older to access them. I managed to reduce the numbers to slightly less than a dozen sites. I noticed that there were a number of SNS related to education that were not mentioned on Wikipedia. I will be discussing them in a separate blog entry.

A number of the SNS are international sites, some out of Europe like Badoo and Bahu. Badoo has 13 million registrants and invites people who are aged 18+ to join their site. An interesting feature is developing 'reportages' of their lives. It is a free site but you can pay to promote your profile. Their slogan is 'The whole world can use Badoo!'

Bahu is not nearly as large and just a year old. It is very popular in France, Belgium and Europe. Bahu invites people from the age of 13 and older to join... 'Hey! Here you can express yourself and meet tons of new friends!'

Orkut is a multilingual site, similar to Facebook, Friendstrs and MySpace. It has 59 million followers and is popular in India and Brazil. Because it is affiliated with Google, when I went to the site, it welcomed me back and asked for more information before starting. I did not bother as I already have a Facebook account and that is enough for me at this point in time. Orkut can be accessed at

The SNS of hi5 is popular in Cyprus, Romania, as well as in Latin America and has many Asian teens who register on their site. 'hi5 - Who's In?'... as of 2007, 98 million users!

Faceparty ...'the biggest party on earth!', is a popular SNS out of the United Kingdom with registrations around 35 million. Initially it was popular with teenagers but now people in their thirties and forties access it, utilizing their chat room. I was not impressed when I went to their site as the home page had a scantily clad girl on it and some inappropriate terms on the page. You are supposed to be 16 years and older to register but I question whether 16 is too young and whether even younger kids are accessing this site.

Habbo, created in Finland is popular worldwide. Users create an avatar, there is a virtual hotel, chat rooms and discussion forums. As of January of this year there are 86 million users and 75,000 avatars created weekly. The home page lists a number of activities that a registrant can do on this site and alot of them were games. A list of discussion forums was at the bottom of the home page and some looked quite interesting.

Out of the States, is myYearbook that has 6 million users with 90% being American. This site was created by two high school students based on the concept of a yearbook. The purpose was to keep records of students and to keep in touch with high school friends upon graduation. It continues to grow in popularity as there are alot of friends out there...'myYearbook, You've got Friends!'. A very colorful and activity filled home page which would be quite appealing to the teenage crowd.

The Social Networking Sites that are more well known to us are; MySpace, Friendster, Nexopia and Facebook.

According to Dana L Fleming in the article, Youthful Indiscretions (2008, ProQuest) MySpace is routinely ranked among the top three most popular websites in America. The site was founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson, a graduate student at UCLA. It was initially created to enable musicians to show case their music. Two years later, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. purchased MySpace for $327 million. She goes on to say that MySpace boasts an international audience with more users than any other networking site in the world.

MySpace is very popular with the older teenagers but younger ones have been known to access it too. Teenagers use it to communicate with each other about their favorite music, online videos, pictures and more. While artists and musicians use it to promote their work and network with other artists around the world.

My connection to MySpace is through our 'undaughter' the best friend of my oldest daughter, who spends a great deal of time with our family. When I asked her if she had an account and why, she responded that she has one for the music and music videos. She has attended several 'shows' which feature various bands around Calgary and where she has taken many photographs. One of the bands 'The Hollywood Gods' has asked her to take photos for them after seeing her photographs on MySpace. She took me into her account to see the photos that are posted for that band with her name below acknowledging her as the photographer. They were pretty awesome looking black and whites!

Friendster was one of the first sites to get noticed by the online community when it opened to the public in March 2003. Friendster was founded in California and is privately owned. According to Wikipedia, there are over 50 million users who are mostly in Asia. and is a multilingual site. It has a video page to add to your profile through YouTube, Crackle and Shankle.

Joanne Barrett briefly refers to Friendster when discussing Social Networking Sites in the ProQuest article, Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a New Security Concern for Teens and Schools (May/Jun 2006). She states that the most notable aspect of Friendster was its unprecedented access to the coveted 25 to 35 year old demographic. She goes on to say that wanting access to marketing dollars targeting this important group, a number of big Web players started up social networking sites. While Friendster enjoyed an intial membership explosion, many of the users from the initial demographic seemed to get bored with the technology and moved on to other things. Friendster was considered to be a top online SNS until 2004 when it was overtaken in terms of page views by MySpace. It also receives competition from Facebook.

Nexopia is a made in Alberta product! This social networking site originated in Edmonton and was created by Timo Ewals, a 18 year old 'programming wizard and rebellious renegade' (from About Nexopia). Today there are over 1.2 million registered members.

The 'About Nexopia' page goes on to say that it was initially designed as a way to fight back against his high school for banning floppy discs (that's a flash from our past!). Ewals wanted to connect his friends online. Nexopia prides itself on the fact that its members are outspoken and opinionated about their culture. This culture commentary goes on to say that by supporting, promoting and developing music, art and cultural events they managed to foster an authentic engagement with their members and have made Nexopia oh so much more than just another faceless internet utility. Nexopia creators state that whether they are arguing ideas in their forums, handing out bandanas in a Warped Tour mosh pit, or partnering with the world's leading media companies to put on high profile cultural events, Nexopia is the social network that's become a lifestyle.

I can understand why this SNS appeals to a younger user. My 14 year old who is in grade 9 has an account with them. He also has a Facebook account but says all his friends are on 'Nex' so he wants to be too. His older sisters brought to my attention that junior high students use Nexopia and senior high students use Facebook! Which now brings me to my own use of Social Networking Sites, I have a Facebook account.

I chose Facebook because it was the only SNS that I knew something about as my own children have accounts. They guided me through setting up an account at Facebook and then I have taken it from there.

Facebook was created in New England by a Harvard sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg. Originally it was meant for undergraduates with a .edu email account but has now opened up to include a wider audience. According to Mark Sullivan of PC World in his article Is Facebook the New MySpace?(July 2007), Facebook has reinvented itself to retain its core members as they move on from college life. The site allows you to search for new friends at companies not just at schools. The useful(??) little applications are apparently turning the site into a networking home page. Sullivan goes on to say that these new features and Facebook's clean design are beginning to attract an older audience of high-tech professionals (the class of EDES 545).

Facebook's home page indicates that it is a free social utility that connects you with the people around you. It lists how to use Facebook; to keep up with friends and family, share photos and videos, control privacy online, reconnect with old classmates, discuss interests and hobbies and plan parties and events.This is not a flashy home page and would appeal to a more mature membership.

Once I got in, the fun began! Visually, it actually became quite busy with advertisements, and appeals to sign up for various applications. I wanted to try out all sorts of applications but then quickly realized how time consuming they are and for me personally they had no productive purpose. I still chose a few so that I could experience them. My youngest son quite frequently sends me requests to try various applications such as Which Marvel Super Hero Are You?... apparently I am like Gambit from marvel comics, whoever he is!

I have 3 scrabble games going. One with Katie from our class, with Simon Rose an Albertan author and with three teenagers one being my 18 year old daughter. I must admit I don't spend much time on them. If I have not come up with a word in a few minutes, I move onto something else.

I have used 'The Wall' to leave messages and my kids leave messages there for me too. When I initially used my account, my son left me a message on my wall saying ...'YOU GOT FACEBOOOKK!! does this mean I don't acutually need to talk to you at home or should all our conversations be on Facebook?' ...ha ha funny 12 year old!!

Once I read a message on my son's wall which I felt should have been posted in the private message area so I sent him a private message explaining why he needs to be more discreet about what he puts on his wall as everyone can read it. He understood and is now more careful. The privacy issue definitely is a concern on SNS and will be discussed more in a separate entry.

Katie and I communicated on Facebook during the creation and discussion of our wiki. We have continued to do this and also play scrabble. It has been a great way to get to know a classmate in our distant learning classroom. I can tell Katie seems much more familiar with Facebook than I as she has alot more happening on her site. I like Jennifer's display of favorite books and current books being read. So far, I have used Facebook more for the 'social' aspect and when I have more time, I would like to develop more educational uses for my Facebook account.

Social Networking Sites are numerous and cater to a wide range of ages and interests. Some people have more than one SNS where they keep in touch with friends and meet a variety of new people with similiar tastes and interests. An interesting video which looks at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube takes a positive spin on social networking and is worth viewing.

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