What Makes a Social Networking Application Tick?

Social networking applications usually take the form of websites that allow people to share information with other people. To really wrap our minds around the concept of a social networking application, we have to look at it’s purpose. As suggested by the name, the purpose of these applications for the user is to socialize. So process this in your mind: people of a community or network of communities come together in one place (a website) to socialize by: visiting the site, registering, logging in, sharing information with others—How does this work? What does it look like to the programmers behind it? What makes this website tick?

Let’s make up a name. We’ll call our social network, MyParenthood.com—a social network for parents. Great, we have a concept and we have a domain name (in our example we assume we have demand for such a website.) Next step is to enlist the help of some crazy-cool programmers to make our dreams a reality.

Personally, I would start with a screen design. Then I would throw it to the programmers to make the design come alive. The reason I do this is so the programmers have a good picture of the concept. The screen design shows them things like current features and potential future features.

For obvious simplicity sake, our application will only have 2 features:

  • MyParenthood.com will allow members that are stored in a database to login.
  • Once logged in, the following message will display: “Welcome, Devin Castro!”
    while my name will be replaced with the user’s name as stored inside a database.

The programmer will first choose a database technology suitable for your application. In our example, I will use MySQL. l then create a table to store users inside of. Databases use tables to store information, similar to an excel spredsheet that contains rows and columns.

Alrighty, the application’s coding will take the form of 1.) HTML (this controls what people see when they visit your site) and 2.) Dynamic Language (this processes information your users pass to your website e.g. username and password in order to login)

We’ll assume we have the HTML part done. It will look something similar to this:

(Note: this HTML does not represent the styling shown in our first figure.)

Now, the part that people don’t see include things such as:

  • Database interaction.
  • Form processing.
  • Output of HTML.

This code will take the username and password that the user entered on our HTML page, then it will attempt to look for a matching user in our user table. Finally, if there is a match the script will output a welcome message that contains the user’s first name and last name as taken from the database table.

Albeit, this code is very crude, may be buggy, and has some serious security holes. Also, websites that have similar functionality may contain more than only 30 lines… more like hundreds or even thousands of lines if the site does more than a simple login. Professional programming requires consideration to factors such as security, reliability, and scalability.

So there we have it… a somewhat crude, but functional login area for our MyParenthood.com Social Networking website. Of course, no other functionality has been developed as we have not gone through how a social networking application actually allows users to share information with other users. That task involves a bit more complex coding and while this was only a mere example, you can see what the pre- “guts” of a social networking application might look like.

Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin is the co-founder & CEO of Atilus. He is a Certified Google Professional, author, and lover of technology. He helps Atilus stay out ahead of online marketing trends and loves driving results for Atilus' clients.

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Recent Comments | 5 Comments
  • Free twitter backgrounds
    Reply

    I have had a myspace for 3 years now.I turn 15 in January.When I first got it I knew to only talk to family/friends (which I still do) then one day I got a friend request from my cousins ex boyfriend. (she’s in her 30’s)
    I knew him from when I was little so I accepted his request.It was all fine & dandy, but soon he started commenting on everything (pictures, status, bulletins)
    He also started asking funny questions like “do you have a boyfriend?” or “you should come visit me sometime!” everyday he would say things to me through posts “such a pretty girl”. “you’ll make a great wife someday.“I got really creeped out & when he started asking about coming to see me I deleted & blocked him

  • Devin Castro
    Reply

    Yes, I am missing the db select function, among other things. This was some code scraped together for this blog post.. Didn’t (and wouldn’t) expect anyone to use this script. lol.

    Thanks for pointing that out anyway.

  • Fredrik Holmström
    Reply

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I think you missed to mysql_select_db() wink

  • Scott Clark
    Reply

    This is going to make an excellent series. As someone with ZERO programming knowledge, this helps me get a handle on it.

  • Zach K.
    Reply

    I look forward to additional posts.
    ——-

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