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The Social Net

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[Photo of Computer]I first used the Internet in 1995 to download files from university archives. While I was certainly happy to find this new resource, there weren’t that many sites and it was a one-way communication street. Yes, e-mail was already available, but I knew only a handful of people who were already using it at the time.

Then along came search engines like Yahoo! and AltaVista, which allowed me to find, not only information and new sites, but also friends I could e-mail. A major innovation early on was the e-mail list. Today, many of us keep in touch via “e-groups” such as Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/).

Although e-mail lists serve an important social function, they also enhance and expand business communication.

Surfer Sense

I know a lot of people who subscribe to their alumni Yahoo! Group to keep in touch with high school buddies — not only to arrange a round of golf or drinks, but also for business leads, services, and information. E-groups can even provide near-instant access to peers, leaders, and experts within a professional field.

When what we need to know isn’t available via e-mail or lists, we use search engines. If we have a question, we “google” for an answer. For a more concise, general overview, we visit wiki sites such as Wikipedia.

Just remember, information isn’t accurate and authoritative just because it’s on the Internet. As with anything else, read widely from various sources and then gather and assess opinions.

Multi-lingual Web

While most people are able to work with English (the most common language on the ’Net), there is a growing number of people who prefer to surf the Web and access information in their own language.

Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! recounted the case of Korea at a recent forum. Horowitz said many Koreans were dissatisfied with search engines since nearly all results returned were in English. One solution was to provide a site where people could ask questions and get replies in their native vernacular; thus, Yahoo! Answers (http://answers.ph.yahoo.com/).

Aside from information in one’s own language, localized sites (such as http://yahoo.com.ph/) also provide more country-specific answers, news, and other resources. But how do you know which answers are correct? The users themselves rate the answers, so each answer accumulates a positive or negative rating.

Social Networks

Internet communities have recently evolved into social networks, where each member gathers personal (direct) contacts.

Each circle of personal contacts then overlaps and provides a way for people to link to each other through their common acquaintances.

Did you know that Filipino ’Net surfers were early adopters of social networking? What’s more, Filipinos still make up the largest group (over 50%!) of Friendster (http://www.friendster.com/).

While these social networks may grow quite quickly, Yahoo!’s Horowitz noted that one question commonly arises: What should one do once the social network is built? There must be more to this thing than finding old classmates or getting a date!

Some social networks, such as LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/), claim to be more business and professionally oriented. For example, LinkedIn provides a way for “intermediaries” to introduce you to people you’d like to meet. Socialization aside, new business uses for social networks are constantly emerging.

The history of the Internet has shown that even technologies that seem to have only social purposes will eventually be used professionally — as well as for trade and commerce. In this vein, Internet giants such as Yahoo! seek to globally promote the social good, while complying with the law within the countries in which they operate.

It’s not just doing the right thing, it’s making it highly profitable as well. After all, at its roots, business is likewise a uniquely human social activity.

Print ed: 12/07


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