[Air-L] Social network site nomenclature

Nishant Shah itsnishant at gmail.com
Thu Jun 25 02:10:18 PDT 2009

I am jumping into a very old discussion - not because I have perverse
pleasures in kick-starting things outside of their temporal plane (well,
maybe I do, but ah well!) - but I didn't the time to  read this thread in
detail before now, and was very intrigued by the different ways in which
people are trying to respond to this question which often emerges in a
variety of cybercultures nomenclature as different disciplines approach the
same object with different understandings and ideas.

One of the ways in which I have always understood the difference between SNS
and ONS is through the metaphor of geographical space. Social Networking
Sites, for me, are necessarily bound to a digital/virtual space which brings
together different users/participants/players etc. in a digital environment
that shapes their communication, behaviour and activities within that
environment. However, the ONS is an idea of scattered geographies. Members
in an Online Social Network might belong to different digital spaces and
might have over-laps with some spaces in particular digital environments but
not necessarily all of them.

An example that a colleague (who works as an information architect and is a
stickler for the correct names) once gave me was through the popular
blogging site Livejournal. He said that Livejournal itself is a social
networking site because it expects people to come together in a particular
environment and then consolidates all their activities within prescribed
formats and structures. On the other hand, Delicious, is an Online social
network, where, even though the users are subscribing and logging in, they
are inheriting their various social networks (inclluding livejournal) and
bringing them together. Or in other words, he had suggested, that the ONS is
more of a meta-structure that aggregates various social networking sites
under one umberlla.

Following this, of course, one starts wondering about Facebook and what FB
would/should be called. On the one hand, FB serves as a social networking
site where clearly, through a series of activities, users communicate and
network online. However, with its ability to also aggregate other social
networking sites data through third party apps, FB also seems to be working
as an Online Social Network - at least for me, where many of my friends, who
are not on FB (Orkut is still quite popular in India), can still interact
with different things I do on FB because of embedded apps.

Anyway, that's about it. Just wanted to give in my very delayed two cents


On Wed, May 13, 2009 at 10:25 AM, Kevin Guidry <krguidry at gmail.com> wrote:

> All,
> Much of the available research refers to services such as Facebook and
> MySpace as "social network(ing) sites/services (SNS)."  Let's ignore
> for the moment the differences between those four permutations as I'm
> more interested in learning about why some researchers use "online
> social networks (ONS)."  SNS seems to be much more common,
> particularly in the wake of the late 2007 JCMC special theme issue
> focusing on SNSs.
> Given that both terms are still in use, is there some sort of subtle
> cultural or discipline-based divide of which I am unaware?  Or is this
> just an oddity that isn't important or indicative of anything more
> than personal preference?
> Kevin
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Nishant Shah
Doctoral Candidate, CSCS, Bangalore.
Director (Research), Centre for Internet and Society,( www.cis-india.org )
Asia Awards Fellow, 2008-09
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