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After seven essays in our Mapping Social Media series, we wanted to take a step back and evaluate our work so far. We thought a good way to do this would be to construct a list of the top most popular social media platforms a harder task than you might think! We also examined our analytical framework itself, comparing it to existing frameworks and exploring where it worked and where it fell short.
Some of these tools work by auditing website traffic logs; others track a panel of users to estimate traffic to different sites. The initial collection was done in November They focus mostly on website traffic, which means they can be blind to mobile usage. As we compiled our list, it became clear that social is eating the world. Many, many websites and apps have some social features. This made deciding what to classify as social media difficult. Are dating sites like Tinder and Hinge social media? What about content subscription sites like OnlyFans or Patreon?
Consider The New York Times, which has a comment section on many of its online articles, or Amazon, which hosts customer reviews and discussions on product s. They are, respectively, a news website with social features and an online retailer with social features. Dating sites were more difficult, but in the end, we decided that they were more akin to platforms like Uber which operate two-sided marketplaces—i. Similarly, we decided that content subscription sites like OnlyFans, Patreon, and Substack are closer to being transaction platforms than platforms for sociality.
This could change if they achieve widespread adoption and add features like content aggregation. Today, these platforms are dominated by paid subscriptions to a small group of creators, but if they shift towards being dominated by Best free social networks ed by the general public, it may make more sense to think of them as falling under creator logic.
Finally, a note about Zoom. In our chat logic essay we mentioned that we think chat logic applies to mediums other than text, like video and audio, specifically citing Zoom as an example. However, after reexamining our definition, we think Zoom is actually more of a utility, like the telephone, than a social media platform. After we determined a platform fit our definition of social media, we then categorized it by logic and by country. As you will see, we included logics that we have not yet written about for the series—some we were already actively researching, while others became apparent in the process of generating this list.
The full top list can be found at the end of this essay, with a downloadable version here. It is sorted in order of Alexa rank. For platforms with popular mobile apps we estimated their Alexa rank by using monthly active user s. As we said above, this is an attempt to offer a rough picture of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, not to provide a definitive or comprehensive ranking. We think the list is most useful for higher-level analysis, such as comparing the popularity of different logics or exploring the popularity of platforms by country.
First, the large of non-U. They made up the majority of the list, comprising 61 of the top Even platforms based in the U. Take Quora: the country Best free social networks the most visitors to Quora, according to Alexa, is India, which makes up 36 percent of traffic, followed by the U. We expect to see some novel logics proposed to explain social media in those linguaspheres. Next, we analyzed the popularity of different logics in our top We assessed the popularity of each logic with this formula: take all the platforms that fall under a given logic and sum their points, where points are ased in order, from most popular by Alexa rank to least popular.
The most popular platform receives points, the next most popular receives 99 points, all the way down to the least popular platform in the topwhich receives 1 point. The of that analysis follow:. Figure 2.
Logics sized by popularity score. The most popular logic was creator logic. The popularity of creator logic and its relative lack of attention in comparison to social network logic suggests that journalists, scholars, and activists should direct more energy towards scrutinizing and understanding it.
Following creator logic in popularity were social network, chat, and subculture logicrespectively. The popularity of social network logic is no surprise. It covers dominant social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, social networks that are run by a single company, for the use of anyone for a variety of purposes, supported by advertising.
Finally, subculture logic covers platforms that are organized around various subcultures. This logic is overwhelmingly populated by internet forums and their descendants—sites like Reddit, Steam Community, and Ubuntu Forums—but also includes sites like Ravelry, a social network for yarn enthusiasts, and Letterboxd, a social network for film lovers. Subculture logic, Best free social networks creator logic, receives less attention than it deserves. One possible reason is that they are less popular among journalists, academics, and politicians, who mostly use Twitter or Facebook.
It was the fifth most popular logic, occupying a middle tier between the dominant logics and the more niche logics. Some are focused on a specific domain like Stack Overflow which serves mostly programmers, while others are more general-purpose like Quora.
It clearly deserves more Best free social networks given its popularity and we will be profiling it in the future. Civic and decentralized. Their omission makes sense. Also, civic logic platforms typically cater to smaller communities. To supplement our popularity score analysis, we provide a bar chart with the raw frequency of each logic in the top broken down by whether a platform was categorized as a U. We also include a table with the average popularity scores for select logics. Figure 4. Logics in order of average popularity.
For example, Figure 3 shows that there is a much higher of subculture platforms outside the U. Conversely, we can see that chat and social network logic have similar popularity scores to subculture logic but at much smaller raw frequencies, suggesting they are home to a less diverse array of platforms that host larger userbases. To further investigate the differences in popularity concentration across logics, we calculated the average popularity for logics with at least eight platforms in the top see Figure 4.
The frequency cutoff was eight, because the remaining logics had frequencies of five or less—small sample sizes that we believed were likely to give noisy. Chat logic has the highest average popularity at 80, followed by creator and social network logic at These findings make sense. Subculture logic is organized around discrete, insular communities, which have a ceiling on their potential userbase—there are only so many yarn enthusiasts. Lastly, another interesting finding from the raw frequencies in Figure Best free social networks is that the U. There are many possible explanations—we will offer two:.
Social media is a space for experimentation in the U. This is true in other countries and languages as well, and we are likely missing some of the more niche experiments due to our linguistic and cultural isolation. We would be grateful for pointers to social media in other countries that exemplify these less-common logics, or are introducing new logics entirely. Political and cultural differences may play a role in the popularity of different social media logics.
Take alt-tech logicwhich covers platforms, like Gab, Parler, and TheDonald. Why could alt-tech be more likely to emerge in the U. First, the U. This makes it more likely that fringe groups in the U. Second, political freedoms in the U. Third, the U. Is it missing important factors that determine the nature of a social media platform? Are there existing frameworks that we should use instead? We found that most efforts to formulate an analytical framework for social media focused on only one or two of our axes; in particular, many efforts focused on the role of affordances. For example, Borgatti et al.
Essentially, the paper is an in-depth exploration of how affordances affect the dynamics and experience of a platform. This focus on affordances was common among the frameworks we reviewed. In it, van Dijck formulates an illuminating and insightful analytical framework for social media. Approaching them as socioeconomic structures means analyzing them in terms of ownership, governance, and business models. The six elements used to disassemble platforms are similar to our five axes framework. What stayed the same? Our technology and affordances axes. Additionally, we prefer using our affordances axis to capture a of de components such as content, interface, and defaults that van Dijck includes under her technology element.
What changed? We agree that who uses a platform, how they use it, and why has a great deal Best free social networks do with its logic; for example, the way LinkedIn largely avoids harassment in contrast to Twitter and Facebook has a great deal to do with users, who are jobseeking and therefore presumably on their best behavior. However, the power of users to shape and influence platforms is perhaps less ificant than van Dijck believes—platforms deal with their idealized user as much as they deal with real users.
Additionally, there are other external stakeholders that may hold more sway than users. Governments, activists, and NGOs are often more likely to affect platform changes than a group of disaffected users. As we said above, we do not claim our top list is definitive or comprehensive so any findings derived from it should be treated with caution.
Even so, we think the demonstrate the benefits of combining an empirical approach with a rich theoretical perspective when studying social media.Best free social networks
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