For the purposes of this lesson, a platform is a website on which you can create an account, share content, and/or interact with others. Unlike general websites, platforms host sizable volumes of user-generated content, enabling you to give as well as take.
There are thousands of popular platforms you may join. Using the vast ecosystem at your fingertips, you can do everything from find fellow baseball fans to create customized comic books. It wold take decades to explore the constantly-growing litany of options.
What you will find below is a highly-curated list of some of the most popular, influential, and functional platforms used by sizable portions of the online populace. Even if you want to maintain a minimal online presence, you may benefit from exploring the following alternatives that help you socialize, shop, and relax.
The following networks stand apart from the crowd thanks to the sheer size of their user bases. It is on the following platforms that you are most likely to find people you already know.
- What it is: A social network with over 819 million monthly active users
- How people use it: To share information about their personal lives and keep tabs on friends, family, and favorite subjects (businesses, celebrities, etc.)
- What you can do: Share photo, video, link, or text-based updates with friends (or the public), organize and RSVP to events, create photo albums, play games with friends, comment on and share others' updates, create, join, and interact with groups, send and receive private messages, share life events (such as getting married, buying a home, or having a child), and update a personal profile and timeline summarizing your background, interests, and hobbies
- An example of how you might use it: To keep in touch with friends and family back home after moving to a new location by reviewing and interacting with their updates (milestones, photo albums, status updates) while sharing updates of your own
- What it is: A social network and microblogging service
- How people use it: To keep tabs on friends and interesting people/companies, follow public discourse on various subjects, and weigh in to real-time dialogue about trending topics, such as breaking news, sporing events, and TV shows
- What you can do: Post text-based updates fewer than 140 characters in length (that may include photos, links, and information about your location), create lists of interesting Twitter account holders, follow and interact with other users, and run searches to find others' tweets about certain subjects or people
- An example of how you might use it: To livetweet a talk you're attending by posting tweets using Twitter's mobile app containing your thoughts, key quotes and insights, and that talk's designated hashtag (e.g. #StringTheory101)
- What it is: A social network associated with Google Accounts
- How people use it: To share content and chat with friends via posts, text-based chats, or visual, face-to-face chats called Hangouts
- What you can do: Group friends into curated circles, upload images and videos, create albums, share uploaded content, links, and text-based updates with various circles, and chat via text or video-based Hangouts (which can be used to share videos, documents, your computer's screen, and more)
- An example of how you might use it: To assemble your widely-dispersed family in a Hangout in which you sing "Happy Birthday" to a fellow family member who is stationed abroad for work
- What it is: A social network for your professional identity
- How people use it: To showcase their resumes and review/recruit potential employees
- What you can do: Create an online resume complete with details about your education, previous jobs, projects, and areas of expertise, connect with colleagues who can endorse your skills or provide recommendations, send private messages, join professional groups, and investigate the professional backgrounds of potential hires, dates, friends, and business partners
- An example of how you might use it: To impress a potential employer with your professional profile on the site, then review the professional backgrounds of the company's relevant employees before coming in for an interview (so that you can ask relevant questions and show you've done your research)
- What it is: A pinboard-style photo sharing site
- How people use it: To curate, share, and peruse images typically related to subjects such as design, travel, food, fashion, and geekery
- What you can do: Pin visual content from around the web (or upload visual content of your own) to themed pin boards you create and maintain (either individually or with a group) and review others' pins and boards (from which you can re-pin content to your own collections)
- An example of how you might use it: Create a board dedicated to design inspiration for your living room, to which you pin helpful decorating tips, inspiring examples, and gorgeous furniture pieces you find across Pinterest, on external websites (using Pinterest's browser plugin), and even on the go (using your camera phone and Pinterest's mobile app)
The following sites rank amongst the internet's top marketplaces that enable you to participate as a seller as well as a buyer.
- What it is: An online marketplace that initially specialized in books, but now offers everything from streaming entertainment to kitchen appliances and men's apparel
- How people use it: To buy goods and sell goods, as well as consume a broad array of entertainment- specifically books and streaming video
- What you can do: Buy goods, sell goods, open a store, utilize Amazon's shopping cart software on an independent site, leverage Amazon for order fulfillment, transfer money, and stream video
- An example of how you might use it: To buy Dutch-processed cocoa powder in bulk at a price lower than that offered in grocery store that is shipped to free directly to your home (something your gentle author does with moderate frequency)
- What it is: The internet's premiere auction site
- How people use it: To buy and sell goods (at an up-front cost or by bidding)
- What you can do: Sell one-off new or used goods, open a store, place bids in online auctions, and purchase goods
- An example of how you might use it: To grow your collection of Spode china by searching for under-priced items and using automatic bidding software to handle auctions for you
- What it is: An online marketplace for handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies
- How people use it: To create online stores and sell goods or search for and purchase goods online
- What you can do: Buy products, review sellers, open a store, sell products, and sociallize with other sellers
- An example of how you might use it: To find a unique, handmade item for your neice, who loves Doctor Who
- What it is: The internet's predominant classifieds site
- How people use it: To buy goods (mostly used), obtain free goods, find services, search for and apply to jobs, meet singles, and find housing (or post listings related to such things)
- What you can do: Post listings for products, giveaway items (e.g. old clothes), services, housing, jobs, or dates and respond to others' listings
- An example of how you might use it: To sell your furniture and give away junk before moving to a new home
Though there are plenty of online entertainment sites available, we chose to focus on those which revolve around user-generated content. The following sites will introduce you to entertainment while also enabling you to share entertainment and recommendations of your own.
- What it is: A video sharing site- plus the United States' second largest search engine
- How people use it: For entertainment, education, information, broadcasting, advertising, and promotion
- What you can do: Upload and share videos (or keep them private), earn money from ad revenue associated with your videos' viewership, and peruse a wide variety of amateur and professional content (ranging from home movies and video journals to comedy sketches, television shows, and full length films), the vast majority of which is free
- An example of how you might use it: To learn how to dance to Thriller, understand the basics of nuclear fission, or indulge your inner Jane Austen fan by watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
- What it is: The front page of the internet; a site with many different categories (addressing everything from social science to videos, frugal living, internet memes, science, cute animals, and Photoshop challenges) that accept submissions of content from around the web, which are ranked based on positive and negative user votes
- How people use it: To discover fresh, high quality content related to pretty much any subject imaginable
- What you can do: Subscribe to specific categories (subreddits) that interest you to discover interesting content and discussions, contribute to the public discourse by weighing in in comment threads, and occasionally submit content (links, photos, questions, stories) of your own
- An example of how you might use it: To review and engage in question and answer sessions lead by a litany of fascinating people in /r/AMA, sharpen your persuasive skills in /r/changemyview, or discover fascianting insights from historians in /r/AskHistorians
- What it is: A social network for book afficionados owned by Amazon.com
- How people use it: To create lists of books to read, write reviews of books they have read, and share recommendations with friends
- What you can do: Create various lists of books to read, take private notes on books, share public reviews and star ratings, and exchange comments and private messages with fellow book fans
- An example of how you might use it: To review readers' thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey before reading it or utilize Goodreads personalized recommendations when selecting the next book you read
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