Social Media | A Quick Guide

Social Media | A Quick Guide

An Article providing a brief description of social media categories and a list of principal social media websites and services. The descriptions of social media categories include blogs, social and business networking sites, digital media sharing services, wikis, virtual worlds, and MMORPGs. The descriptive list includes over thirty (30) examples of principal social media websites and services.

Categories of Social Media

Social media sites, applications, and services fall into one or more of several fundamental categories. Because of constantly evolving technology and the growing mainstream use of social media, certain websites, web services, and applications fit into more than one category, and may evolve over time into different categories. It is useful to understand the characteristics of each category when examining the legal issues relevant to each of these categories.


A blog is a web log or website listing posted information and other content dated in reverse chronological order, self-published by authors (known as bloggers). For examples of popular blogging host sites, see TumblrBloggerWordPressSquarespace, and Typepad.

Social and Business Networking Services

These are services allowing individual, corporate and organizational users to connect to other users and display online their networks of friends and contacts for other users to see and form connections. For prominent examples, see Facebook and LinkedIn.

Digital Media Sharing Services

These are services where users can upload and share videos, music, photographs, and accompanying text. For examples of principal digital media sharing services, see YouTube and Flickr.


A wiki is a database of web pages that can be edited live by the public. For examples, see Wikipedia and Wikitravel.

Virtual Worlds and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG)

Virtual World

A virtual world is a computer-based environment, such as an MMORPG, created to simulate a real or fictitious environment, often containing elements of both (see MMORPG). Users of online virtual worlds interact through their avatars (see Avatar). For a popular example, see Second Life.


MMORPG is a genre of gaming that can be played by several users simultaneously, regardless of physical location over the internet. Players adopt avatars to represent themselves in the virtual world online and interact with each other. World of Warcraft is the most popular example of this category in terms of total active users.


An avatar is a customized character in digital form, created by an online user to personify his presence on a website and interact with other users, such as in online gaming communities, virtual worlds, or forums.

Popular Social Media Sites and Services

Social media sites and applications connect their users to one another, to new content (including user-generated content) and to communication channels that allow for an instant and permanent online presence. Many sites include traditional communication capabilities within their proprietary technologies, such as email, chat, blogging, and others. A popular function of most social media sites is the ability for users to post links online for others to see.
Below is a descriptive list of some popular social media sites, services and applications. This alphabetized list is not exhaustive and is meant to include the most popular social media services on the internet:
  • A Small World: An invitation-only social networking service that includes private messaging, forums, and event calendars.
  • Blogger: A blog-publishing service hosted by Google. These blogs have a sub-domain name of
  • Digg: An online community where users discover, vote for, share, and comment on content from the internet, including news, video, and images.
  • Doostang: A career-focused social networking site that enables members to post and apply to job openings, network with friends and friends of friends online, and conduct job searches according to industry, geography, and other criteria.
  • Facebook: A social networking service where members can connect with friends and other people in their network, post links, comments, photos, and videos, and conduct public conversations by writing on members' timelines. It also allows members to post private messages not visible to the public.
  • Flickr: An online photo-management and sharing application that enables members to make the photo and video content they upload available on the web for public or private viewing and commenting. Flickr is for personal, non-commercial use only.
  • Foursquare: A location-based social networking service generally logged into using a mobile device where users share their location with friends, check in to businesses to collect points and badges, and post information about nearby businesses or venues.
  • Geni: A website for families to privately connect with relatives, post pictures, and send messages to other members in their online family tree. Members build their family tree by connecting with other relatives, who are members of the website, and posting their personal family data.
  • Instagram: A service allowing users to take photos and videos with their smartphones, applying various filter effects, and sharing them with other users who can "like" and comment on the photos. Instagram also has a "stories" feature for users to post photos or short video clips to their audience that can disappear after 24 hours, or if the user elects, be saved to their archives or posted to their profile. Users can also share to other social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012.
  • LinkedIn: A professional networking website where members can maintain connections with other members, establish connections to contacts of members in their network, give recommendations for members, be introduced to other members for help in job searches and other career-related goals, and post content publicly or through private messages.
  • Meetup: A social networking website that allows users to organize into groups and plan face-to-face meetings.
  • Messenger: A Facebook feature and, since 2011, a stand-alone app for group video calls, voice calls, and text messaging. It is used by businesses as a marketing tool, for customer service, and other uses.
  • Periscope: A live video-streaming mobile app that allows users to broadcast live videos to other users. While a video is streaming live, viewers can send public messages to the broadcaster and "like" the video. Videos can also be saved for replay at a later date. Twitter acquired Periscope in 2015.
  • Pinterest: A content sharing website that allows members to pin images, videos, and other content to their own pinboards and share their pinboards with other users.
  • Reddit: A social news website that allows users to submit content that other users vote on, which ranks the posts and determines their position on the site's pages.
  • Second Life: A user-created, 3D virtual-world community where members can create and customize an online three-dimensional persona, known as avatars, and conduct purchases using virtual currency, known as Linden dollars (L$). Second Life provides the capability for businesses to develop and maintain a virtual presence, as well as a web-based marketplace where members can buy and sell products for avatars' use on the site.
  • Skype: A social networking app that provides video chat and voice call services. Users may exchange text and video messages, create groups and chat rooms, and instantly share digital files with one another. Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011.
  • Slack: A real-time messaging platform designed to be used by groups, typically co-workers, as a collaboration tool. The platform offers both desktop and mobile apps, as well as archiving and file sharing capabilities. Although it is free for employees to use, companies that want access to a full range of features must pay a fee.
  • Snapchat: A mobile app that allows users to share Snaps (photos and videos with captions) to friends. Unlike other forms of social media, within ten seconds the Snap disappears after the recipient views it. Snapchat also includes Snapshot Stories, which are video clips that can last up to ten seconds and disappear after 24 hours.
  • TikTok (formerly known as A very popular media app for sharing short videos. The app allows users to record and edit 15-second videos, post them to their profiles, message other users, browse popular users (known as musers), and follow trending songs, sounds, and hashtags. TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, merged TikTok with social networking app in August 2018.
  • Tumblr: A blogging website where members can post and share text, photos, links, music, and video from their browser, phone, desktop computer, and email.
  • Twitter: A microblogging site where users post status updates in 140 or fewer characters, through the service's mobile application or by mobile text (SMS). Status updates are known as tweets. Users can share (known as retweeting) other users' tweets.
  • Typepad: A fee-based blogging service that allows users to create blogs and use search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO) tools.
  • Viber: A cross-platform instant messaging and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) app that allows users to exchange messages, images, and video and audio media messages by sending files to each other through the Viber application on each user's computer or mobile device.
  • Vine Camera: A mobile app, owned by Twitter, that allows users to record videos up to 6.5 seconds long with their smartphones. The user can then share the video by uploading them to their Twitter accounts or by saving them onto their smartphone's camera roll for private viewing. Vine Camera was previously known as Vine.
  • WeChat: A messaging and calling platform that also allows online shopping, including payment, reservations, and other commercial uses.
  • WhatsApp: A popular messaging platform that lets users send text-style messages to other users without incurring charges for text messaging. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014.
  • Wikipedia: A wiki database of user-generated articles on various topics. Users draft and edit the information included in the articles and can contribute anonymously or with a name or pseudonym. The articles include links that direct the user to additional information.
  • Wikitravel: A wiki database of user-generated content for travel with a similar format to Wikipedia.
  • WordPress: An open-source software program that allows users to publish websites or blogs.
  • Yammer: A microblogging site similar to Twitter aimed at streamlining internal workplace communications. Although it is free for employees to use, companies that want to gain control of and manage their corporate Yammer networks must pay a fee.
  • YouTube: An online video community that allows users to publicly post, share, and view original videos, with a forum for user comments and a platform for creating individual channels. YouTube provides for video embedding that allows users to link video posted on YouTube to their profiles on Facebook, Myspace, blogs, and any website. Google acquired YouTube in November 2006.

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