Social websites have become a major medium for social interaction. From Facebook to MySpace to emergent sites like Twitter, social websites are increasing exponentially in user numbers and unique visits every day. How do these websites encourage sociability? What features or design practices enable users to socialize with other users? The purpose of this paper is to explore sociability on the social web and details how different social websites encourage their users to interact.
Four social websites (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter) were examined from a user study perspective. After thoroughly participating on the websites, a series of observations were recorded from each experience. These experiences were then compared to understand the different approaches of each website.
Social websites use a number of different approaches to encourage sociability amongst their users. Facebook promotes privacy and representing “real world” networks in web environment, while MySpace promotes publicity and representing both real world and virtual networks in a web environment. Niche websites like LinkedIn and Twitter focus on more specific aspects of community and technology, respectively.
A comparison of different models of sociability does not yet exist. This study focuses specifically on what makes social websites “social.”
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