Mobile social network

Mobile social networking is social networking where individuals with similar interests converse and connect with one another through their mobile phone and/or tablet. Much like web-based social networking, mobile social networking occurs in virtual communities. A current trend for social networking websites, such as Facebook,[1] is to create mobile apps to give their users instant and real-time access from their device. In turn, native mobile social networks have been created like Foursquare, Instagram, and Path, communities which are built around mobile functionality. More and more, the line between mobile and web is being blurred as mobile apps use existing social networks to create native communities and promote discovery, and web-based social networks take advantage of mobile features and accessibility. As mobile web evolved from proprietary mobile technologies and networks, to full mobile access to the Internet, the distinction changed to the following types: 1) Web based social networks being extended for mobile access through mobile browsers and smartphone apps, and 2) Native mobile social networks with dedicated focus on mobile use like mobile communication, location-based services, and augmented reality, requiring mobile devices and technology. However, mobile and web-based social networking systems often work symbiotically to spread content, increase accessibility and connect users.


The evolution of social networking on mobile networks started in 1999 with basic chatting and texting services. With the introduction of various technologies in mobile networks, social networking has reached to an advance level over four generations.[2]

First generation

The first generation began in 1999 or early 2000. Technologies used in this generation are application-based, pre-installed on mobile handsets. Features include text-only chat via chat rooms. The people who used these services were anonymous. The services of this generation's mobile social networks can be used on a pay-as-you-go or subscription-to-service basis.

Second generation

Second generation began in 2004 through 2006. The introduction of 3G and camera phones added many features such as uploading photos, mobile search for person based on profile, and contacting/flirting with another person anonymously. Regional distributions of these features include Japan, Korea, Australia, Western Europe and US. The applications are mostly useful for dating purposes. The services of this generation's mobile social networks can be used on a pay-as-you-go or subscription-to-service basis.

Third generation

The experiments for this generation mobile social networks started in 2006. It was adopted widely in 2008/2009. This generation brought tremendous changes and made mobile social networks as a part of daily life. The features include a richer user experience, automatic publishing to web profile and status updates, some Web 2.0 features, search by group/join by interests, alerts, location-based services and content sharing (especially music). Technologies include WAP 2.0, Java on the server, MMS, and voice capture. Applications introduced were customized with general interests such as music and mobile-specific content distribution. Regional distributions of this generation of mobile social networks include Japan, Korea, Western Europe, and North America. Advertising and ad-supported content become increasingly important. The services in this generation can be used with pay-as-you-go plans; subscription-based plans were still popular as networks increased their scale to become content distribution platforms.

Fourth generation

Fourth generation began in 2008 and reached in 2010. All the features in third generation are advanced in this generation of social mobile networks. The features of this generation include the features of the third generation, the ability to hide/mask one's presence, asynchronous video conversation, multi-point audio chat conversation with one button, and multiplayer mobile gaming. Technologies which made these features possible are Web 2.0 widgets, Flash Lite, OpenSocial, and Open Handset Alliance. The business model of previous generations continued along with virtual currency – the purchase and trade of virtual goods.


Initially, there were two basic types of mobile social networks. The first is companies that partner with wireless phone carriers to distribute their communities via the default start pages on mobile phone browsers. An example of this is JuiceCaster. The second type is companies that do not have such carrier relationships (also known as "off deck") and rely on other methods to attract users.[3]


Mobile social networking sites allow users to create a profile, send and receive messages via phone or computer and visit an online version of a mobile site. There were different models which were adapted by different networking sites. Most of these sites have many unique features or special functions, but the main function of the site remains the same as other services. All these sites are categorized according to the following business models.

Group texter

This model is focused on the ability to send short, text-based messages to a large group of people simultaneously. It can be by SMS or micro-blog. This category enables messages reach the right people as quickly as possible.


This model relies on geotags to provide location information about users and content. This allows users to tag particular locations with images and other information. These tags can be accessible by the users which are mapped on world map. Some of the sites in this category enable to receive alerts when the user passes by the location in which somebody was tagged in. Some location-aware applications function more like radar. They take advantage of growing interest in location-based services by keeping track of all the contacts. This allows knowing people who are nearest to the user. Many of these sites also allow users to check if there's anyone near a particular venue or location, and some of them will actively alert the user if any of their contacts comes within a certain distance.

Dating service

Users create a profile and are matched with other profiles online. Some of these sites use radar to ping a user if there is a matching single profile within a certain distance. These sites are marked with serious security measures, so that no personal details are released without the user's consent.

Social networker

The sites using this model try to use online social networking sites as closely as possible. Many of these sites use mobile portals of already existing and successful sites such as Facebook. They offer vast number of functions including multimedia posts, photo sharing, and instant messaging. Most of these sites offer inexpensive international calling and texting facilities.

Media share

This model can be viewed as an advanced version of the Group Texter category. Instead of text messages, audio and video files are transmitted among the group, or, as in the case of Instagram and its competitors, shared to the public. Most of them store media content online for easy storage and access.

Social gaming

This model is about connecting people through both multi-player games and competitive single-player games. Mobile devices are always increasing their capacity for graphics performance and computing power, making them capable gaming devices.[4] The leader in this category is Zynga, creators of Farmville and Words with Friends, though it has suffered a decline.[5]

Safety issues

Safety issues (including security, privacy, and trust) in mobile social networks are concerned about the condition of being protected against different types of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other non-desirable event, while mobile carriers contact each other in mobile environments. However, lack of a protective infrastructure in these networks has turned them in to convenient targets for various perils. This is the main impulse why MSNs carry disparate and intricate safety concerns and embrace divergent safety challenging problems.

In the United States

United States mobile social networking market

While Japan, Korea, and China have a higher usage rate of mobile social networks compared to other western countries, the United States is a prevalent user of mobile social networks. The US has a population of 303.82 million people and a mobile penetration of 72% with 219.73 million mobile subscribers in 2008. Informa forecasts the number of mobile subscribers to rise to 243.27 million by 2013.[2]

The mobile data market in the US is at a developed stage of growth where non-messaging data revenues account for 20% of US operators' overall data revenues. In September 2012, the CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industries Association) announced that data service revenues rose 40% to US $14.8 billion. The CTIA announced that SMS usage had maintained its strong growth.[2]

Social networking once began in the online space, but it has rapidly spread to mobile platforms. Currently, consumption of mobile internet usage is being driven by mobile social networking. Data shows that the US has 220.14 million online internet users which is 72.5% of the population. Flat-rate data plans have been prevalent in the US for a number of years but the customer adoption of mobile internet was slow until 2008. However, the introduction of the iPhone has definitely increased the market for mobile internet. iPhones have transformed the mobile social network market, and today there is numerous mobile development for social network apps.[2]

The US mobile social networking market experienced steady growth in 2008 with 6.4 million mobile social network users. Since then, the number of mobile users has continued to grow and below is graph forecasting the growth until 2013.[2]

See also

Notes and references

  1. Glazowski, Paul (February 6, 2008). "Facebook Launches Mobile Operators Platform; Signs Vodafone as Partner". Mashable.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 White paper on Mobile Social Networks
  3. Mehrotra, Puneet. (2007). "BrandXtend – Delivering on and off deck". The Business Edition.
  4. Evangelho, Jason (September 13, 2012). "Mobile Game Developers Discuss iPhone 5: "Graphics Matter"". Forbes.
  5. Leber, Jessica (October 18, 2012). "Zynga in Slumps-Ville, But Social Games Are Still Hot". Mashable.


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