The State Of The Social Web

>> Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rewind. It's the 1990s. The Internet is still a novelty commodity in most parts of the world. People still read paperbacks, hardbacks, newspapers and journals. They still turn to their trusted radio sets, and TVs. Most importantly, the still hang out with their friends. In the real world.

Fast Forward to the present. The amount of information entering and exiting our lives each day is phenomenal. People no longer know each other by their names. Instead, people are known by their avatars, their call-signs, their screen-names, and their chat handles. Each year sees a new breed of services spring up that claim to help one socialize better. It all started with MySpace. Then came Hi5, Orkut and slew of others. Today, you are laughed at if you aren't on Facebook, or don't know how to share your thoughts using a keyboard, mouse, or your PDA. The real-world has been molded into the real-time world, where face-to-face conversations are not even half as important as that cool status message, or that cute pic, or that amusing video.

The growth of the Internet has unleashed upon us, a myriad of Web Apps, each promising to reinvent your web experience. The forerunners amongst these apps are the Social Networks. It's getting increasingly crowded out there with every network boasting of a unique user experience. Google, as recently as earlier this month, got into the fray with Buzz, and if early statistics are any indication, it'll either be a runaway success or a privacy headache.

Here's the low-down on 5 of the most popular social networks out there today:

Facebook: Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is now the the largest social network on the internet. With almost 400 million active users, it is by far the grand-daddy of all social networks. What makes Facebook so popular is its clean interface, constant feature upgrades, design changes, and a development team that listens to users. More importantly, Facebook has a strict monitoring and banning policy and more often than not, miscreants are penalized for their actions (spammers beware!).


MySpace: MySpace was one of the first websites to hop onto the social bandwagon and provided for an online meeting place for friends. As it evolved, it spun of into dedicated sections for Music and Videos. More and more upcoming artists are using MySpace to market themselves and build a fan-base. The USP of MySpace was the amount of customization that it provided it users. Users could take almost any part of their profile and slash and hack it into something they identified with. Suddenly, the Internet was no longer dull static, text-only webpages.


Orkut: The original Google social network. Named after its creator, Orkut Büyükkökten (I still can't pronounce that name!), Orkut went viral very quickly. Although not immensely popular in the USA, Orkut rose to dizzying heights in other regions. However, plagued by tons of spamming and privacy problems, it started drawing flak from all quarters. Towards the end of 2009, Google gave Orkut a face-lift to maintain its fledgling rank as a social network. However, the redesign didn't go down too well with most users and many thought that Google were merely trying to imitate the Facebook interface.

Twitter: Created by Jack Dorsey, Twitter rose to fame very quickly and was touted as the "SMS of the Internet". Taking a whole new view on social networking, Twitter encourages its members to micro-blog (i.e. post 140 character tidbits about something interesting). A typical twitter post consists of a link to an interesting page along with a short description. The rise and rise of Twitter also gave birth to a flurry of URL-shortening services (Bit.ly, etc.), so that people could share links in lesser characters. On the upside, Twitter can be used to effectively market businesses. On the downside, there is incessant spamming on Twitter.


Google Buzz!: The second social network from Google's stables. Launched as recently as February 2009, Google Buzz created a lot of excitement amongst netizens. Buzz provides a totally new social experience by integrating with Email (GMail). This integration also provided Google with a means to boast of a large subscriber base. Buzz seems to have borrowed from the link-sharing aspect of networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The idea is to post links, photos, videos, etc. all from the convenience of your Inbox. Despite all its revolutionary ideas, Buzz was dealt a lot of criticism because of severe privacy oversights on the part of Google.

With each passing day, the battle between social networks is heating up to new and previously impossible levels. There's cutthroat competition between networks, and the end-user is benefiting from this in the form of innovative features. Over the next few years, this arena is going to fill up with more and more players as newer networks try to lure users away from established ones.

Image Credit: stock:xchng


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This blog was created out of my passionate following for technology. After spending most of my life behind a monitor, and bent over a keyboard, I decided that it would be wonderful if I could pass on a bit of my knowledge to fellow netizens. And with that, I realized that it's time to start my first Blog. I hope that I will be able to keep posting quality content regularly. Please drop your comments about the blog on the Feedback page. I will do my best to respond.

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I am a final year Engineering student. This blog is my attempt to provide perspective on technological developments (computers and the Internet) from around the world. This is my first attempt at blogging and any feedback (good or bad) is welcome.

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