Mobile social networking is social networking where one or more individuals of similar interests or commonalities, conversing and connecting with one another using the mobile phone. Much like web based social networking, mobile social networking occurs in virtual communities.
A current trend for Internet social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook is to turn mobile. In parallel, native mobile social networks have been created like Foursquare and Gowalla. Initially, there were two basic types of mobile social networks.
The first is companies that partner with wireless phone carriers to distribute their communities via the default start pages on mobile phone browsers, an example is JuiceCaster.
The second type is companies that do not have such carrier relationships (also known as “off deck”) and rely on other methods to attract users. While mobile web evolved from proprietary mobile technologies and networks to full mobile access to the internet, the distinction has changed to the following two types: the first is web based social networks being extended for mobile access through mobile browsers and smartphone apps, the second type is native mobile social networks with dedicated focus on mobile use like mobile communication, location based services, augmented reality requiring mobile devices and technology.
Advances in hardware and software technology have facilitated the existence of these mobile virtual communities. Industry wireless network technologies include SMS, WAP, Java, BREW and i-mode. Previous focus on wireless network technologies and functionalities has been extended to multimedia and satellite navigation by new and improved technologies like camera and GPS integrated in mobile devices.
Combination of these 3 areas of technology in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 extended the focus of mobile social networks to new areas, functionalities and technologies like cloud computing, user-generated content (UGC), location-based services (LBS), augmented reality (AR).
Japan, Korea and China have much higher usage of mobile social networks than Western countries, generally thanks to better mobile networks and data pricing (flat rate notably is widespread in Japan). Most of them are extensions of PC-based services, but others are pure mobile-focused offerings. Examples are Cyworld (South Korea, web+mobile) and Tencent QQ (China, web+mobile). In Japan where 3G networks achieved over 80% user penetration, numerous other mobile SNS have popped up.
With the current software that is available, interactions within mobile social networks are not limited to exchanging simple text messages on a 1-to-1 basis (SMS) but are constantly evolving towards the sophisticated interactions of Internet virtual communities.