Week 3- Social Graphs

The primary purpose of a social graph is based upon a mathematical analysis that would reveal the level of connections a user has with other users in the online, social networking community. The statistics that a social graph provides gives social media the potential to grow and the opportunity to benefit from specific users’ interactions with one another, allowing individuals and/or corporations with similar interests to communicate.

As social media continues to grow in numbers and its influence increases on a global scale, cementing its place in society, has now led to a majority of social media users to have more than one account. It would make sense for users to not want to continuously have to create new login accounts; not only is that time consuming and annoying, but being forced to do so could also be dangerous. Users have to repeatedly tailor their profile to match their personal preferences, keep reconnecting with the same friends on new sites and, perhaps most unsettling, encountering the potential risk of having their personal information and privacy jeopardized. Linking users multiple social media profiles’ information together is just one aspect of the possibilities that “social graphs” can and do offer.

 “In the ideal scenario, we would like to spend the least amount of time logging in, configuring, telling the system what we like. We want to use the network to connect and to communicate. More importantly, we want to not just feel that we are in control, we want to be in control of our personal information. Just like we choose who to make friends with, we want to decide how our friendship information is used. We think of a social network as a service that has our eyeballs and can advertise to us, in exchange for connecting us to people we want to connect to. And as with any service, we want to control our information.” http://readwrite.com/2007/09/11/social_graph_concepts_and_issues#awesm=~owa9GsILHvb6ke

With all these variables at play, it would make sense for social graphs to want to link together users’ account information as a way to minimize such inconveniences and potential for hacking and fraud. However, potential problems could arise, given that simply because two people are connected in one aspect of their lives- such as through work- that does not necessarily equate to them wanting to be connected in other realms of social media. And while social graph does promise to give users the option of allowing them to decide which connection they wish to make, this still does not guarantee privacy.

Other risks can result with the use social graphs. An example of this is that a user’s social media history and various accounts becomes a virtual fingerprint of such an individual. By the personal details of a user being revealed so publicly, that individual now becomes highly appealing to companies looking to advertise to those whose personal information match the demographic of those companies and businesses. It’s not just companies and business that could potentially capitalize on a user’s information: a goal for social graphs would be to allow other social media networks to thrive in an online environment where few social media websites dominate a majority of the marketplace.

“Almost universally every small site I’ve talked to wants to cooperate, realizing their graphs are incomplete and that’s not their specialty… they just need the social graph to do their thing. They don’t care where it comes from and they don’t mind contributing their relatively small amount of data to making the global shared graph better. Uncooperative sites, on the other hand, are the ones that are already huge and either see value in their ownership of the graph or are just large enough to be apathetic on this topic.” (http://bradfitz.com/social-graph-problem/)

            But not all social networking sites are thrilled with this. At times it seems as though the hesitation coming from those “huge” social media websites that do not want to be a part of the social graph is, because at the end of the day, social media websites are a business, just another form of a free enterprise. If these “giants” in the social media world decide to become apart of a social graph then doing so could potentially- and most likely- equate to loss of profit.

Sharing users’ information with new and emerging social media websites and other applications would open the door to new competition in not only for marketing but also risk their own users’ activities. Social media websites have proven to be immensely lucrative becoming a new, virtual form of capitalism. Facebook, for example, continues to buy out new applications and other forms of social media websites as a way to dominate the marketplace and limit competition.

Such was the case when Facebook was unable to buy out Twitter. After that, the social media website quickly turned to Instagram and offered the relatively new, image based application a one billion dollar cash buy out even though Instagram at the time, had no revenues. The move was intended to not only allow Facebook to become a major player as a mobile application, something with which the social network had notoriously struggled, but also as a way to gain leverage over Twitter.  The immediate result of the buy out led to Instagram no longer being a feature for Twitter users from which to upload photos.  

            As with most cases involving aspects if social media, there are positives and negatives associated with the use of social graphs. On the positive side it has the ability individuals and corporations with those that share their similar taste and interest, on the other it exposes users to those that might take advantage of such tastes and interest that are being divulged. In the end, time will only demonstrate the validity of using, or rather, sharing social graph as a way to further communicate and connect.






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