John A. Barnes coined the phrase social network in the 1950s. A social network is the way in which people are connected through social relationships - from casual acquaintance to family bonds. With the explosion of the World Wide Web, social networks have grown and expanded via the help of social services network programs, such as Friendster, LiveJournal and MySpace. These social services network programs give people from all over the world the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and to form new bonds.
This boon of social services network sites gives researchers a great source for social network analysis. Different types of social networks have been identified by observing these networks. Today, from blogs to online dating sites, the fodder for social network analysis grows annually.
According to social network analysis to date, one of the pioneers of internet social services networking was Friendster. Friendster uses the Circle of Friends technique, where an initial group of users sends out emails inviting new members from their personal social networks to join the website. Those new members then repeat the process, which makes the total number of members grow almost exponentially. Further social connections are formed through features including automatic address book updates, personal profiles, and the ability to meet new users via introduction services.
Today Friendster functions as not only a place for friends to chat, but also as a dating site, a file sharing community and an online blog. The free service lets users create their own profile, search for friends by name, school or hometown and make new friends. This is the essence of social network analysis - finding those connections that people make in their social environments.
Another form of a social network online is MySpace. MySpace is considered by those who do social network analysis to be a blended network, in that it combines both online and "real world" elements. MySpace supports both face-to-face events and online interactions. MySpace was originally founded as a community for musicians. In the last 2 years, the site has exploded to include more than just artists, with a current membership of over 41 million. Currently, MySpace lets registered users connect via blogging, a MySpace email system, web forums and more. Social network analysis shows users on MySpace not only make more online connections, they also strengthen the real-world connections they have with those they know both offline and online.
While social services network sites like Friendster and MySpace have allowed people to make new connections and strengthen existing social connections, they also have their downsides. There are many fake profiles on both sites and there are some people who join simply to scam other users. Some people also break the no-nudity rules and use these sites for pornographic purposes. As with all internet activity, be sure to protect yourself and your personal information when joining one of these social services networks.