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What has been observed recently is that the social sites like Facebook and MySpace on the net are becoming more and more popular to millions of people and even the time span allocated for such sites daily is becoming considerably larger.

With the variety of the technological means that they provide, many social network sites are attracting the attention of various groups of users and these sites are being incorporated for various purposes worldwide. Even though such sites serve the purpose of supporting already existing social relationships in real life they, furthermore, help to form bonds among total strangers in real life on the foundations of mutual fields of interests such as, language, faith, nationality, political view, hobbies etc.

According to a definition made, these may be said to be web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Boyd and Ellison).

"Profile"s are in fact pages where one can put into vision all the information about oneself. After joining a social network, the individual is expected to fill out forms containing a series of questions. The profiles are generated using the answers to these questions, which typically include descriptors age, location, interests, and so on. Most sites also enable users to upload a profile photo and the viewing of the profiles can be enhanced according to personal taste. Although the visibility of a profile varies from site to site it is at the user's discretion. By default, profiles on Friendster and sites are detected by search engines, making them visible to anyone. Sites like MySpace provide the option for the users to choose whether they want their profile to be public or "Friends only". "Visibility" and "access" are accepted to be the basic criteria in differentiating social network sites from each other.

After joining a social network site, users are encouraged to invite others that they have a relationship with to the system. The labels used for these relationships are various-popular terms include "Friends," "Contacts," and "Fans". Making the list of Friends visible to anyone who is permitted to view the profile is a prominent feature of most sites. Including a link to each person's profile in the list provides the other users on the list to be indirectly able to form new connections with each other.

Social network sites vary greatly in their features; beyond creating profiles and friends lists, commenting and private messaging, some have photo-sharing or video-sharing capabilities, others have built-in blogging, instant messaging and applications for mobile technology. Some like Facebook and MySpace are web-based and support limited mobile interactions. The social network sites which were initially designed to target specific groups of people are observed to be used far from their purpose. Orkut, for example, was launched in the United States with an English-only interface, but Portuguese-speaking Brazilians have become the dominant user group. Some sites are designed with specific identity-driven categories in mind. There are even social network sites for dogs (Dogster) and cats (Catster), of course their profiles are managed by the owners.

How did they come into being?

The notion that individual computers linked electronically may have formed the basis of computer mediated social interaction and networking. Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV and BBS are assumed to be the early efforts for the foundation of the concept and it becoming widespread.

Early social networking websites started in the form of generalized online communities (such as The WELL (1985), (1994), Geocities (1994) and Tripod (1995)). These early communities focused on bringing people together to interact with each other through chat rooms, and share personal information and ideas around any topic via personal web pages and blogs. Some sites took a different approach by simply having people link to each other via email addresses. These sites can be exemplified as (1995), focusing on ties with former school mates, and (1997), focusing on indirect ties. came about the first time with all the features and functions of previous sites, but available in one package, however, the website simply wasn't profitable and eventually shut down. The, which came about in 1999, was trust-based, providing a new model for users with more control over content and connectivity.

Between 2002 and 2004, three social networking sites emerged and made history as the most popular form of these sites in the world: Friendster, MySpace and Bebo. In 2005, MySpace, according to statistics, got more page views than Google. 2004 saw the emergence of Facebook, a competitor to MySpace, rapidly growing in size. In 2006, Facebook opened up to the non US college and university communities, and allowed externally-developed add-on applications, some applications enabled the graphing of a user's own social network - thus linking social networks and social networking, and thus became the largest and fastest growing site in the world.

Today, it is estimated that there are over 200 social network site models known to be used widely around the globe.

Issues of concern...

There is concern about large social networking services, since users give out too much personal information and the limitations on memberships to these sites are inefficient, all leading to criminal abuse (sexual exploitation of children, credit card information theft etc.). Users of these services need to be aware of data theft or viruses even though large services, such as MySpace, often work with law enforcement to try to prevent such incidents. Furthermore, bulk of information that could be accepted as confidential circulating on networks facilitates the surveillance of persons by the government agencies and large corporate. Another unwanted situation is the sharing of personal information with third parties tends to prevent the sovereignty of people on their personal information.

It is also open to mislead and deception since there is no guarantee for the authenticity of the personal information provided at social network sites. For instance, in an incident that appeared in court in 2008 in UK, a person who posted a fake page on Facebook purporting false allegations to dishonor another person was ordered to pay a large sum for libel and breach of privacy.


A study of worldwide usage of social networking sites released in August 2008 indicates that while the growth in usage in North America is beginning to level off as compared to the previous years which showed rapid increase, it is burgeoning in other regions around the world. The table below depicts the changes in the usage statistics for years 2007 vs. 2008 according to regions:

Worldwide Growth by Worldwide Region
July 2007 vs. July 2008
Total Worldwide Audience, Age 15+ Home and Work Locations
Source: comScore World Metrix


Number of visitors (000)

July 2007

July 2008

Percent Change





Asia Pacific








North America




South America




Middle East - Africa




The statistical work conducted on social network sites shows that the number of visits on popular worldwide sites increased multi fold from 2007 to 2008. Specifically with the introduction of natural language interfaces in several markets has propel the growth of Facebook outside the US market during the past year. The table below shows the change in usage of certain social network sites between the years 2007 and 2008:

Worldwide Growth among Selected Social Networking Sites
2007 July vs. 2008 July
(Total Worldwide Audience, Age 15+ Home and Work Locations)
Source: comScore World Metrix


Number of visitors (000)

July 2007

July 2008

Percent Change

Total Internet Users

778,310 860,514 11%

Social Network Users

464,437 580,510 25%


52,167 132,105 153%


114,147 117,582 3%


28,174 56,367 100%


24,675 37,080 50%
Orkut 24,120 34,028 41%
BEBO 18,200 24,017 32%
Skyrock Network 17,638 21,041 19%

When Turkiye is taken into account; The results of a survey published in May 2009 shows that the increase in the usage of social network sites has gone up at a much higher rate in Turkiye than that observed worldwide. It is indicated by the study that more than 18 million people in Turkiye age 15 and over accessed the Internet from home and work locations, making Turkiye the seventh largest online population in Europe. The statistics about Turkiye are as follows:

Top 10 Online Activities in Turkey Ranked by % Share of Total Time Spent Online
May 2009
(Participants 15 and over Turkiye Total, home and work locations included.*)
Source: comScore World Metrix


% Share of Total Time Spent Online

Total Internet usage


Instant Messengers


Social Networks




















It is designated with the same survey that the 79.6% of the Turkish Internet users have visited the social network sites:

A Selection of Leading Social Networking Sites Ranked by Total Turkish Unique Visitors
2009 May
(Participants 15 and over Turkiye Total, home and work locations included.*)
Source: comScore World Metrix


Total number of visitors (000)

Percentage of usage

Total Turkish Internet Users



Total Turkish Internet Users






Mynet Eksenim





MySpace Sites


















* Excludes Internet activity from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile connections. comScore estimates the size of Turkiye's extended online platform, which includes all access points and users of all ages, to be 27 million 127 thousand.

This work has been scripted making use of the sources indicated below:

Cihan Yıldırım Yücel

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