What is a Mobile Social Network?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

In the realm of computers and the Internet, a mobile application is one that has been especially designed to meet the needs and constraints of a mobile or handheld device. This means functioning within the operating system and microbrowsers available for mobile and handheld devices, as well as taking account of their limited bandwidth abilities and the small size of their display. Social network is a term coined in the 1950s by J. A. Barnes, a professor, who used it to refer to people drawn into association by family ties, a common hobby, or their work. Social network is used in the realm of computers and the Internet to refer to software applications and websites that were developed to help create, extend, or enhance social networks in the real world. A mobile social network is a social networking application or website designed for or miniaturized for a mobile environment.

Mobile social networks may be accessed through a cell phone.
Mobile social networks may be accessed through a cell phone.

A social network application is sometimes referred to as a social networking service (SNS), so a mobile social network service may be referred to as a mobile SNS. Mobile social networks that are developed from PC-based services are available to both computer and mobile users allowing for integration of use no matter what device a user chooses to access the site. Some mobile social networks have been developed exclusively for use on mobile devices.

Mobile social networks let users post and share information about themselves, and connect with others sharing their information, via mobile devices.
Mobile social networks let users post and share information about themselves, and connect with others sharing their information, via mobile devices.

Some mobile social network applications are sites on which users create profiles, seek out others whom they know or with whom they share interests, create posts about their activities or shared concerns, share photos and links, etc. Others use that information for other purposes creating a variety of types of what have been called friend-linked apps. For example, there are friend-locating apps that map the location of a user’s nearby buddies. These apps also allow businesses to collect consumer data and target people in a particular neighborhood at a particular time for marketing that might entice them into a local store, restaurant, nightclub, or movie theater.

Some concerns have been raised about privacy issues with regard to this type of mobile social network application. They point out that people are giving away a great deal of information or allowing a great deal of information about themselves to be collected without thinking about the consequences. More stringent laws and an explicit opt-in requirement are urged by those who see reason for concern.

Many people share their vacation with their friends through mobile social networking apps.
Many people share their vacation with their friends through mobile social networking apps.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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