Types of Social Media Services

Lots of people have sought to sort the different services and technologies that swarm around the term “social media” into neat categories, but it's a constantly moving target. Not only are the technologies evolving, but the features provided by the various services increasingly overlap.

MySpace, for example, provides a well-used blogging feature. Video hoster YouTube supports such social features as Ratings and Comments. And all the top social networking providers allow users to create online photo albums, which is the specialty of Flickr and Webshots.

However, most would probably agree to a handful of broad categories, including:

  • Messaging and communication: Blogging services, video and photo blogging tools, podcasting, and micro-blogging.

  • Communities and social groups: Essentially, all of the social, business, and special-interest networking services.

  • Photo and video sharing: Specialty services that allow you to upload photos and videos to the web, and to manage those images.

  • Social bookmarking and tagging: Services that allow users to identify online content with keywords, and share the links. You get the descriptions and some opinions, but not the actual content.

  • Collaboration and cooperation: Websites that allow users to add and update content from their browsers. “Wiki” has become the generic term.

  • Opinion and reviews: Services such as Yelp and Epinions, which provide user-generated reviews of everything from books to restaurants.

  • Virtual worlds: Rich environments in which you interact with other users in real time through avatars. Second Life is the most famous, but online role playing games, such as World of Warcraft, fit this definition, too.

In 2009, Google launched OpenSocial, a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) designed to provide common technical ground for developers of social networking applications. These APIs are what is known as “cross-platform” technology, which means that apps based on them work on just about any social network. By contrast, the Facebook Platform is a framework for apps that interact with core Facebook features.

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