social computing

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Social computing refers to any form of computing whose goal is social interaction, whether trivial ("socializing") or substantial (e.g. activism). Users on a social computing platform constitute a social network; social computing sites are consequently often referred to as "social networks", and social computing software and platforms are often described as "social networking".

Social computing for substantial purposes, i.e. with a specific goal in mind, is also referred to as collaborative computing.

Services such as blogs (including microblogging), forums, and wikis are also social computing, though they are not usually described as such.

Services such as instant messaging and IRC are also a form of social computing, though they often omit many of the "core" features listed below. Perhaps the ones omitted need to be moved to the "best practices" list, or maybe we need 3 lists. --Woozle 10:39, 17 July 2011 (EDT)


The overwhelming popularity leader among social network services is US-founded Facebook, whose membership is currently greater than the population of the United States. Google+ started out on a trajectory that might have allowed it to catch up, but Google took the service in directions that were unpopular with many people, and it hasn't kept that momentum.

Other services include:


There are a number of open-source software packages available for creating social computing sites:

Some social computing packages are designed for de-centralized, peer-to-peer operation, so that the network will remain available even if one or more sites go out of service; see /federated for more.

Attributes / Tools

It is commonly expected that any social computing/networking platform will support the following core features:

  • /avatars - a small user-uploaded image intended as a visual identity cue
  • /posts - the ability for any user to post messages that are visible to others
  • /feeds - a sequence of posts from one or more other users, typically displayed in chronological order
  • /subscription - the ability to select whose posts you want to see in your feed
  • /authorization - the ability to choose which other users are allowed to see information you enter
    • Google Plus allows this choice for (nearly) every piece of information you enter
  • /comments - the ability to comment on messages posted by others
  • /feedback - the ability for users to express approval (at a minimum) of specific posts or comments
    • e.g. Facebook's [like], Google Plus's [+1]
    • some sites allow "dislike" or even rating on a scale
    • no known sites currently support InstaGov-style voting, or even a substantial subset
  • /authorization - the ability to choose which other users can see your posts
  • /media - the ability to post (either as links, embeds, or uploads) various media files, i.e. images, video, and audio
  • /links - the ability to post links

Some additional best practice tools and attributes have emerged over the years since social computing was first implemented:

  • /threading - the ability to comment on a specific comment rather than just adding to a long chain of comments
    • most current-generation blogging software supports this, though some of the most popular blogging services apparently still do not
    • Neither Facebook nor Google Plus support this yet.
  • /groups - the ability for users to subscribe by user-created topic rather than by user
    • Facebook currently supports this. Google Plus does not except via Google Groups, which is not yet integrated with G+.
    • LiveJournal and similar journaling sites support this as "communities".


  • Fine-grained relational search tool:
    • Search for "all posts by User X on which User Y has commented"
    • Search for "all posts on which both User X and User Y have commented"