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Chapter 4: Friends Indeed
CNBC.com | March 16, 2012 | 11:33 AM EDT

Always connected and always online: welcome to the social supercloud.

THE WORLD IS IN THE MIDDLE of an unprecedented collective experiment. By the time you read this, Facebook may well have become the first online social network to boast a billion members – which, were it a nation, would make it the third most populous on Earth after China and India. Of course, there is no guarantee that Facebook , which at the time of writing claims some 800m active users, will get to the billion-member mark. But its success has already shown how the notion of friendship in the physical world can transfer successfully to a virtual one. And we are still in the early days of this social revolution in cyberspace – one which is going to play out in many different areas between now and 2050.

As well as online social networks, a plethora of other “social media” services is reinforcing links between people on the web and off it, as those who strike up friendships online subsequently meet face-to-face. These media include everything from blogs and “wikis” (sets of web pages that can be edited by anybody) to online-dating sites and services such as Foursquare that share a person’s location with his or her friends.

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