Everyday we are consumed by social media, and they have been affecting how we interact with one another online and offline.Let’s take a quick look at the different role each social networking sites play.

Facebook is a social networking site founded by Mark Zuckerberg and launched in  February 2004.  As of April 2012, Facebook has over 900 million active users. Facebook has become so integral in our lives that almost everyone uses it to share personal thoughts and photos with friends and family, and ends up spending a disproportionate amount of time on it.

Twitter is a microblogging and social networking service founded by Jack Dorsey in 2006. As of February 2012, Twitter has over 500 million active users and over 340 million tweets are generated daily. Twitter allow users to send tweets which are limited to 140 characters and can be read by registered or unregistered users, and has been described as the SMS of the internet. Twitter is also often used as a stream of news and instant information sources.

Linkedin is a professional social networking site founded by Reid Hoffman in 2003. As of 2012, there are over 161 million professionals using Linkedin to network with each other. Linkedin allows users to upload and create their online resume, and Business professionals leverages this feature to hire new talents or to look for jobs.

Google+ is a social networking platform launched by Google, integrating the various Google services such as Google Profile, Hangout, Circles and Sparks. As of April 2012, Google+ has over 100 million registered users. Sources such as The New York Times have declared it Google’s biggest attempt to rival the social network Facebook, but the network is so new that I think it’s still figuring out what it wants to be.

On top of that, there are a lot of other social networking sites that targets verticles such as the developers community (GitHub, Stackoverflow, Geekli.st), the designers community (Dribbble, Forrst), Q&A/ Review (Quora, Digg, Yelp), social sharing (Reddit, Tumblr, Sumbleupon), Food Sharing (Foodspotting, Burpple, SnapDish), and photo sharing (Instagram and Flickr). Of course, there are also Path, RenRen, Pinterest, dating networks, and the list goes on and on.

With the abundance of social network out there, the question is, do we need all of them? Since we have managed without them previously, are networking site solving problems that are non-existent? Has it become a necessity for us to interact with our friends and for businesses to reach their users? In my opinion, yes we do need them, but only a handful. Social network provides an effective channel for businesses to reach out to prospective customers, and allows business owners to interact with viewers who can potentially be a customer.

The success of social networking site like Facebook has spawn off more and more localized versions around the world, leading to another question, are there too many social networking sites out there? To me, I feel that the World Wide Web has evolved so much and so diverse that it has the capacity to sustain all these different social networks. Recalling what one of our speakers at Echelon, Cjin of Cubie messenger who says that slowly but surely, there will be one app for every emotion, and there will be one social network for each identity.  If there’s a place online with discussion of topics I care about, people and community that I can relate to, I’ll find time for it.