History of Social Networks, Key Events and Major Contributors
Geocities was the first social networking site, produced in 1994, and this enabled users to form and customise websites they created. TheGlobe.com launched a year later and this enabled users to produce individualised content as well as engage with people with similar hobbies and interests. AOL Instant Messenger and SixDegrees.com were social networks launched in 1997 and this is when innovative features such as searchable profiles and instant messaging began, so users had the ability to interact with friends at their convenience.
MySpace soon came to the fore and garnered success due to it’s to videos, music and online hipper characteristics. It eventually gathered 75.9 million users at it’s peak in 2008 and it was the most visited website in the world in 2006, surpassing Google in the process. After MySpace got sold, it’s growth continued, and by 2008 it was producing around $800 million in sales. Nevertheless, MySpace lost market share to Facebook soon enough as a result of it’s easy to use format and additional functionalities. Another reason why MySpace lost market share is its 3 year advertising agreement with Google in 2006 that overloaded the website with advertisements and made the website more difficult to navigate around (Jesdanun, 2006). Despite the downfall, Myspace still exists.
LinkedIn was established in 2003 and it’s success was due to its more formal, professional and enterprised approach to social networking it had. Other social networks focused on instant messaging, gaining popularity, and displaying memorable events through a photo platform, but LinkedIn concentrated on building a database of employers and individuals with professional jobs. LinkedIn has over 500 million registered users.
Mark Zuckerburg created Facebook in 2004, and the main aim was to connect American college students. Initially it was for exclusive members only and the way to gain membership was to be invited. This feature was a hit and over 50% of Harvard students joined in the first month. 2 years later, Facebook become open to the public and by 2008, it became more popular than MySpace. Today, Facebook has over 2 billion registered users globally.
In March 2006, Twitter was created by 4 people including Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams. It’s individualistic features included limiting users to 140 characters per tweet. However, in 2017, it doubled this character limit. Being valued at $14.2 billion, it was listed on the public stock exchange in 2013 (Keith, 2019). Twitter now has 126 million users that are active on a daily basis.
In September 2011, Snapchat was created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown (Keith, 2019). Its individualistic characteristic was that it enabled members to transfer pictures to each other that would no longer appear soon after being opened. Nowadays, Snapchat also allows people to message each other and share a “24-hour story,” giving users the ability to display and save photos for a whole day. Snapchat has around 186 million active users, being very popular among young people.
Generic Architecture to describe Social Networking and a Real World Example(Facebook)
Social Networking uses client server applications which are stored and hosted in the cloud. This requires the usage of advanced WIFI connectivity to interact with millions or
billions of members through mobile frontend technological mechanisms that can support 2 way interactions using enhanced multimedia. Such mobile devices and mechanisms are also enhanced with sensors such as GPS, microphones, speakers, cameras etc to identify geographical and environmental information. Innovations like these help to execute the most simplistic functions of Social Computing applications by forming the 4 application specific characteristics of Social Interaction, Share Content, Action Taking and Aggregate Knowledge. These 4 characteristics exist in all applications and it depends on the application which characteristic takes precedence over the other (Ginige, A. and Fernando, M, 2015).
When using these applications, the 4 application characteristics lead to to emergent characteristics that takes two forms; an emotion inside the user and a perception the user has towards the application both of which makes humans more motivated to repeat actions such as organising an event and meeting offline. Humans do act in these philosophical ways to satisfy pivotal human needs as provided in this Facebook example below.
The main application characteristic of Facebook is social interaction and this drives the other 3 applications. When the 4 characteristics work in conjunction, they lead to emergent characteristics such as trust, belogingness and acceptance. Trust can be gained in a person or business page due to likes, shares and reviews. The feeling of belonginess can be formed by joining a group that share similar interest in a particular sport, musical artist and political subject. Acceptance and inclusivity can be formed when friends or mutual friends invite one another to events or tag them on memorable photos, videos and important posts. These feelings that emerge in users are one part of the emergent characteristics (the emotion within the user as described above). The other part is perceptions they have towards to the application (Ginige, A. and Fernando, M, 2015). One perception could be the convenience of the application as a result of having easy access to a substantial variety of information on products and services . A perception of an efficient platform is created as a result of friends who live worlds apart being able to instantaneously connect. It is economic as there is no financial cost to use it as long as one has a device and business connectivity. These emerging characteristics lead to certain repetitive actions such as sharing information and organising an event. These actions are philosophically inclined to meet a pivotal human need as described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Facebook users acted online by sharing and organising events whilst offline they phyiscally met in those events. By doing so, they socially interacted with peers hence built new and strengthened existing relationships. This relates to the level 3 of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; belongingness.
Future development opportunities for Social Networks
The growth of social networks such as LinkedIn will only accelerate in the coming years as high-speed internet and mobile devices will go mainstream in several of underdeveloped nations of the world, who will hop onto the social and business computing bandwagon.
In addition to accelerating social growth, we could also see some shift in the popularity of different social media channels. Social networking market leaders such Facebook and Twitter could lose further market share to Instagram due it’s more mobile-friendly platform which gives it a narrower array of content type. The vast majority of social content is being consumed in a mobile environment, hence that structural advantage is significant.
Product discovery could ultimately become a social networking experience as traditional discovery channels such as online reviews and search engines lose ground to the growing emergence of social networking websites, which is highly popular among young people and probably future generations. This could lead to significant growths in social selling and social commerce in the long run. Major brands and small businesses already use and will continue to use websites such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise products and services as a result of it’s cheap marketing costs and ability to connect with mass numbers of customers.
The main determinant of social networking success will probably be video in the future. Social videos produce a mammoth 1200% more shares than text and images altogeter. Furthermore, 82% prefer to watch a live brand videos instead of reading their social media posts and 80% would prefer to view a live video instead of skimming and reading through a blog post (Hasan, 2018). Hence, marketers should tether to this demand by marketing products and services on video to remain competitive. Azriel Ratz, CEO of Ratz Pack Media, said that in 2018 ‘’LinkedIn plans to launch video ads, giving even more strength to its advertising platform: LinkedIn Ads’’ (Guidara, 2019). Generation Z is setting a social networking trend and businesses should look to exploit this by tailoring products and services through video resolutions since young people are statistically more likely to enjoy this visual form of marketing.
Part 2- Facebook Case Study
Below I will describe various technologies involved in Facebook. Although I have earlier explained how information is processed from a mobile phone to a Facebook platform and then described how this helps to meet fundamental human needs, I will be technical, also explaining how the technologies provide an enabling platform for information to flow through the system.
For Facebook, the Web front-end written is in PHP. Facebook’s HipHop Compiler then converts it to C++ and compiles it using g++, resulting in an efficient, scalable and high performing Web logic execution layer (Figuiere, 2019). This Static compilation helps to avoid dependency problems since the application can be sure the libraries are present and the correct version.
PHP stack ensures that automated backup feature for a huge social network such as Facebook occurs, which is important both as a security measure and to ensure customer and business sensitive data is not lost. In addition, PHP based solutions are quick which reduces business expenses. PHP is also open source and free.
Any services that are implemented in Java use Facebook’s custom application server rather than any enterprise server application. Initially this looks like a reinvented wheel but it is important to note that these services are exposed and consumed mostly using Thrift. The overhead costs of Tomcat and Jetty that come in conjunction with the usage of enterprise server applications do not provide value for money for these particular services.
Persistence programming, which can be described as data that outlives the process that created it, is done using MySQL, Memcached and Hadoop’s HBase (Figuiere, 2019).
Hadoop and Hive perform offline processing. Hadoop provides significant storage for various kinds of data as well as huge processing power and the ability to withstand many simultaneous tasks occurring together.
Data such as logging, clicks and feeds transit use Scribe.
Varnish Cache is used for HTTP proxying; one of it’s many benefits is its flexibility. The Varnish configuration language allows Facebook users to write policies on how incoming request should be received and handled. These policies dictate what information to serve, where such information can be obtained and the methods in which requests and responses are altered. This provides a smooth and hassle free experience for Facebook users, with few delays and timeouts. Other proxy servers are compatible with network protocol, FTP and SMTP, but varnish mainly supports HTTP, which is a better security protocol. Therefore Facebook user’s data is encrypted and less susceptible to hacking attempts.
Haystack, which is an ad-hoc storage solution produced by Facdebook, is what manages and handles billions of photos stored and posted by the users. Haystack brings low level optimisations (Figuiere, 2019).
Facebook has an automated system that quickly responds to monitoring alerts by launching the relevant repairing workflow. If the outage is not overcome, the issue can be escalated to humans.
Facebook Messages’ search engine is built using an inverted index stored in HBase whilst the typeahead search uses a custom storage and retrieval logic.
How user behaviours may impact on system performance.
- Facebook controls over 60,000 servers whilst 300 TB of data is saved in Memcached processes
- Their Hadoop and Hive cluster consists of 3000 servers with 8 cores, 32 GB RAM, 12 TB disks that is a total of 24k cores, 96 TB RAM and 36 PB disks. Hence, giving Facebook the platform to process data very quickly so Facebook can rollout out new products, understand user reactions as well as adjust designs in near real-time.
- In July 2010, Facebook averaged 100 billion hits per days, 3 trillion objects cached and 130 TB of logs per day. (Figuiere, 2019).
These Big Data statistics give insights into Facebook’s performance, efficiency of data processing and customer base.
Facebook has more servers than ever before to cope with the growing demand for it’s services. Many feel that Facebook has sufficient capabilities for real-time traffic to be transmitted in an efficient, rapid way without error correction and retransmission mechanisms.
However, this does not make Facebook immune to data outages. As recently as March 2019, Facebook blamed a ‘server configuration change’ for the severe outage it had for more than 14 hours. Nevertheless, a former Facebook chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, argued that the automated system that responds to monitoring alerts did not know how to handle the problem, and got stuck in some kind of loop that exacerbated the damage. Hence, human engineers are required to intervene and reconfigure a complex web of interdependent services on hundreds of thousands of systems (McCarthy, 2019).
Reasons for Facebook’s success
Facebook’s success can attributed it’s ease of use. It is very easy to update significant life events on your profile such as a new relationship, new schools or new homes, hence allowing friends to acknowledge occurrences in your life. It is also very simple to connect with friends and add friends to form a group hence Facebook can help a person achieve a part of level 3 of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; belongingness. This is done by providing a platform that helps you build new friendships and strengthen existing ones.
Facebook consistently delivers upgrades to enhance customer experience. It is important to note that it avoids making too many drastic changes simultaneously as this would confuse and potentially upset the customer who is accustomed to a certain method of platform functioning(such as the method in which a photo can be uploaded). Facebook has added news feed, timeline, cover photos since it was founded. The security and privacy for Facebook has been developed since you can decide the people you want to share your posts and photos with by using a block list for each status. Hence, unfriendly stalkers can be avoided. Another new feature Facebook has implemented is Facebook Messenger which is a platform to video call free of charge. To sum up, Facebook has remained competitive in the social networking marketplace due to it’s continual rollout of new features.
Facebook is arguably an addiction for many young people. This is because the website alone offers a news feed, a video calling and messaging service as well as the ability to follow or like other people’s posts. Furthermore, there is an App Center, which is filled with third-party games, including Candy Crush saga. Cognitive neuroscientists have found from extensive research that rewarding social stimuli from receiving laughing emojis, positive recognition by colleagues as well as messages from adored family members can result in the activation of the same dopaminergic reward pathways that are activated when a user receives a hit of cocaine (Haynes, 2018). Facebook and smartphones have the ability to provide us with an almost unlimited supply of positive and negative social stimuli. Each Facebook notification, whether it’s a message or a “like” on a personal photo, has the potential to be a positive social stimulus and dopamine influx. In every human exists a dopamine-driven desire for social validation, and Facebook has exploited this until the point that hundreds of millions of young people have become consistent users. Social validation and Inclusivity is listed on the Maslow Hierarchy of needs.
Earlier on, Mark Zuckerberg emphasised the importance of a ‘’cool’’ and well-liked product over shareholder value; he did this by rejecting advertising clients as they were regarded as not ‘’cool’’. This proved to be a success, as Facebook garnered greater market share.
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