Most people who have spent enough time on the internet may not recognize the phrase "social networking". However if you ask most people if they've heard of a blog, a forum, or a MySpace page - most of these people will say yes.
The very origin of the internet was as a giant social network. It was a system called ARPANET that, for the most part, connected University systems together. This system became a true social network once an email system was invented to be used on the network.
Once the internet exploded - the dot-com boom brought a major commercialization of the internet and enormous investments into ads and attempts to get people to make purchases over the internet. However the medium of the internet did not lend itself to massive sales because people were largely concerned about privacy and the security of financial transactions. Even today - many people will not make purchases online because of these concerns.
However, from its very beginnings, through the dot-com bust, and continuing today - social networking has been at the very core of what drives the success of the internet.
What People Use the Internet For
In the late 1990's, Carnegie Mellon University conducted a field trial study to understand how people use the Internet at home. The study separated the various categories of internet use by demographics. However the most significant finding of the study was that, "The most popular reasons they cited for using the Internet were to get information relevant to a hobby or a personal interest, to communicate with family and friends, and to ‘enjoy myself'".
In other words, the most popular use of the internet wasn't for purchasing goods, but instead it was to conduct research for a hobby, and to communicate with other people.
The very origins of the internet, and the findings of this study clearly prove that the heart of the internet itself is social networking.
The Future of Social Networking
The fact that social networking was the very foundation of the internet tells us that it is essential to its future. People log onto the internet to talk to people across the world on forums, they write blogs to tell people across the world about their lifestyle and home life in their region of the country or to share with other business owners the secrets of their business successes. Still others communicate through messaging systems like Skype, MSN, or IM which offer various forms of communication including chat, voice, and messaging systems.
Social Networking on the internet has become a variety of technologies and web pages that are used to connect people to people in ways that were only imagined in science fiction novels ten years ago. Today we can video conference, post images and files on collaborative forums, and we can share videos and information through profile pages on the thousands of social network websites that are peppered throughout the internet.
Specialty Social Networks target specific niches that are related to particular hobbies, businesses or industry. These niches are where the most successful entrepreneur will focus his advertising resources. Specialty Social Networks provide businesses with a rapt audience related to specific topics such as antiques collecting, web design, automobile repair, or millions of other potential interests. Just about every of these interests and hobbies require supplies, information, and services that a savvy business person can subtly offer on the social network. As long as the business person doesn't spend their entire time on the network trying to sell their product or service, but instead focuses on meeting people and making friends, they will find more success in social networks than they will in any other ad campaign anywhere on the internet.
Social Networks in Ten Years
The new internet of the future is one that will seamlessly integrate technologies of images, voice, and data all into one entire networked system that is now known as the internet. In the future, it is very likely that the social networking sites that currently exist on the internet will mature, as will their users, into sites that offer a multitude of technologies that seamlessly mesh with our everyday life. The internet will integrate with television sets and telephones. We will have the ability to communicate with our social network contacts through the television, telephone, cell phone or computer - as they will all share common voice and data communication technologies.
Contact with our entire social network will no longer by only through the computer - it will be possible to contact any contact within the network regardless of where you are in the world. Automobiles will all have active connections to the internet, and movies, radio, and all communications will be fed to cars, busses, trucks, trains and planes. No matter where you are ore what you are doing, you will no longer need to locate a computer to get in touch with a business colleague or a friend on your social network. You will be connected everywhere.
The future of Social Networks is the future of the entire internet. This is what the internet has always been primarily used for, and it is what the internet will continue to be used for in the future.