Sharing of information is an essential tool in the society today and of utmost benefit in a business environment. Information sharing refers to exchange of information between individuals or groups of people through various protocols. Today the process of information sharing has been standardized and taken to advanced stages through the use of internet. Here, information is able to be shared in bulk, among many people and within the shortest time. This has further been appropriated by the development of social networks through social sites. Through social networking sites, billions of people are able to form links with one another based on particular interests. When it comes to information sharing, a good social site is the one meets all four information sharing design patterns namely; one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, many-to-one (DePompa, 1999).
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Today social networking has become an order of the day with emergence of more social networking sites. The most common sites that have received a significant appeal to the masses are Myspace, Twitter and recently Facebook. The first version of Myspace was launched in 2003 with few features. It has since developed with additional of several features to increase its appeal and in 2006; it was voted as the most famous social site in the US based on monthly visits. The new design Myspace has several features that assist the members interact and share a wide array of information. These include bulletins(equivalent of status updates, groups( feature that allows members to have a common page and a board for posting messages, MysoaceIM for instant messaging, MyspaceTV which allows sharing of videos, Myspace news, Myspace classifieds, Myspace forums, Myspace music which allows people to upload music audio files. Twitter, another famous social site is based in the US and was developed in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams. The site is a simple social utility tool that uses status updates to keep friends informed. This can be written and posted either in web form, as a text message, or as an instant message. It is currently focusing on additional of more features like twitter blocks and Gmail import and search. The world of social networking was probably revolutionized with the introduction of Facebook, a social site that has received a world wide support and thereby overtaking Myspace in April 2008 as shown by the number of monthly unique visitors. Facebook was developed by Mark Zuckerberg through a number of phases before it became the Facebook we know today. When he developed the site it was meant to be for the university he was in but later grew to a worldwide thing. Today Facebook has a fan base of over 300 million users making it the most famous social site in the world.
Just like Twitter and Myspace, it uses several features common in them like status updates and instant messaging. Over the years, the privately owned website has improved its features which have made it the most preferred social site by many defeating Myspace owing to the degree at which it allows customization. These include the Wall which is a board in someone’s profile where the friends can post messages for them, Photos uploads which are unlimited in number and the friends are able to view and comment on, status update which allows users to keep their friends posted on their current activities. A feature which Facebook prides itself in is the News Feed which appears on the user’s homepage highlighting the recent information and activities in a summarized manner, hence keeping the user updated on changes in their friends profile, upcoming birthdays, upcoming events, as well as their friend’s activities. Facebook provides the user with a chance to control the information they receive on their feeds. Facebook’s Notes feature is a blog page that allows the user to post information and embed images. In the notes one can tag other users and allow them to post comments. Users are also given the option of importing blogs from other forums. With the introduction of Instant Messaging on Facebook, the user is able to share posts instantly in a chat window that pops out. The users are allowed the chance to create Groups based on common interests. In the groups members can post information on the wall, upload photos and videos as well forming discussion topics on the discussion board. The ability of Facebook users to share links from other websites makes it possible to keep friends posted on the information available on other sites. Facebook contains a feature known as Marketplace which allows posting of advertisements for free. The freedom of the user to customize his Facebook pages and the allowance of the site to share bulk information has made the site appeal to businesses.
The popularization of the use of social networking sites as a means of establishing contacts with friends and making new ones, has significantly contributed to the manner in which information is shared amongst individuals and groups. This new trend of using the internet sites means that the information is shared among the billions of people who use the internet. Information shared on facebook for instance can reach millions of people. The ability of users of sites such as facebook to post instant messages ensures information is transferred within the shortest period of time. Owing to the allowing of users to upload unlimited amount of data, bulk information can now availed by the users for friends to view. Facebook also allows sharing of links with other sites hence ensuring that friends can share important information they found on other sites. Business operators in other sites such as craiglist and eBay can post links on Facebook concerning an item on sale. With features such as marketplace on facebook, businesses information is shared and displayed on the page for viewing by the entire users. Facebook allows the users to create events hence help users stay updated on the upcoming events (Ramon, 2009).
Facebook’s appeal to millions of users is attributed to its incorporation of numerous of features and applications available on other social sites. Its popularity as an information sharing avenue is attributed to the fact that it meets the criteria for information sharing pattern design. It allows for one-to-one sharing of information, one can also share information with many users e.g. when you post a status update, many people can share information with many people like when postings are made on a groups wall, and finally information can be transferred from many people to a particular individual e.g. when many people make comments on a user’s note. Facebook among other social sites have marked a new era in information sharing due to the frequency at which web users visit the social sites ((Junichiro, 2005)..
DePompa B. (1999) Special Report: Information Sharing & Analysis. Falls Church, VA: Media, Inc.
Junichiro, M., Tatsuhiko S., Yutaka M. (2005). Real-world Oriented Information Sharing Using Social Networks. New York: ACM.
Ramon, T. (2009). The Impact of Social Networking on the Value of Information. San Francisco, CA: SlideShare Inc.