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A social networking service is an online platform that is used by people to build social networks or social relations with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social networking services currently available in the online space introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features: social networking services are Web 2.0 internet-based applications, user-generated content is the lifeblood of SNS organisms, users create service-specific profiles for the site or app that are designed and maintained by the SNS organization, and social networking services facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals and/or groups. Most social network services are web-based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as by e-mail and instant messaging and online forums.

A social networking service (also social networking site, SNS or social media) is an online platform that is used by people to build social networks or social relations with other people who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social networking services currently available in the online space introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features: (1) social networking services are Web 2.0 internet-based applications, (2) user-generated content (UGC) is the lifeblood of SNS organisms, (3) users create service-specific profiles for the site or app that are designed and maintained by the SNS organization, and (4) social networking services facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals and/or groups. Most social network services are web-based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as by e-mail and instant messaging and online forums.

Social networking sites are varied and they incorporate a range of new information and communication tools such as availability on desktop and laptops, mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones, digital photo/video/sharing and "web logging" diary entries online (blogging). Online community services are sometimes considered a social network service, though in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, digital photos and videos, posts, and inform others about online or real world activities and events with people in their network. While in-person social networking, such as gathering in a village market to talk about events has existed since the earliest developments of towns, the Web enables people to connect with others who live in different locations, ranging from across a city to across the world. Depending on the social media platform, members may be able to contact any other member. In other cases, members can contact anyone they have a connection to, and subsequently anyone that contact has a connection to, and so on. Linked In, a career social networking service, generally requires that a member personally know another member in real life before they contact them online. Some services require members to have a preexisting connection to contact other members.

The main types of social networking services are those that contain category places (such as former school year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a recommendation system linked to trust. Social network services can be split into three types: socializing social network services are primarily for socializing with existing friends (e.g., Facebook); networking social network services are primarily for non-social interpersonal communication (e.g., LinkedIn, a career and employment-oriented site); and social navigation social network services are primarily for helping users to find specific information or resources (e.g., Goodreads for books). There have been attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate entries of friends and interests (see the FOAF standard). A study reveals that India has recorded world's largest growth in terms of social media users in 2013. A 2013 survey found that 73% of U.S. adults use social networking sites.

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