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Social Networks

The term social network refers to the social structure that is created through social connections between individuals (nodes). An example of a social network is the family tree, in which the connections, or relationships, are all familial. But many social networks are built on much less strong bonds where the relationships are casual in nature. This is generally the basis for online social networks.

Online social networks can be described as online communities that bring together people – individuals or organizations - with similar interests, goals, or even projects to freely exchange ideas or information, or to collaborate. In social networking, which is an alternative to personal blogs, people typically are sent an invitation to join a network from someone they know who is already a member. These networks usually contain user profiles and the ability to create web pages, a method of communicating with other members, and some allow for personalized searches and web archiving.

MySpace and Friendster are examples of general social networking sites where users can post content they want to share with others. There are lots of “specialized” networks for one specific interest. Some networks are not specific in subject matter, but rather the type of information shared. The network del.icio.us, for example, is a network where users share their favorite web site bookmarks. For specific subject areas, social networking can be invaluable for sorting through overwhelming amounts of information on a particular subject matter. Other types of networks can be purely for fun or personal fulfillment, such as ones that users flock to to discuss the latest episode of their favorite television shows. Others, such as LinkedIn, are intended as a tool for professional networking.

Some social networks, such as Technorati, combine the social network with blogging, by allowing users to link to their personal blogs. This can be great exposure for personal blogs that might not otherwise have any way to advertise their existence.

Whatever the focus, social networks are a great way to connect online with others, who may or may not be located near you or that you would not normally come into contact with