Social networks credited with role in toppling Egypt's Mubarak

Activists used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to mobilize during protests

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That's what protest leaders in Egypt did. They gathered people for protests using Twitter and text messaging. They called for action on Facebook pages.

"Social networking has clearly been a catalyst and an accelerant," said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner. "Clearly, they think that Facebook did play a role. There are people from all walks of life out in the streets demonstrating and they're carrying signs referring to Facebook."

Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester, argued that while social networking wasn't the basis for the Egyptian revolution, it was a critical part of its infrastructure.

"Social media wasn't the spark that created the Egyptian uprising, but once that spark hit social channels, the ability to communicate in real time and reach large numbers of people at no cost was most certainly a significant contributing factor in how the Egyptian demonstrations spread and were sustained," said Ray.

"Facebook pages were used to inform and raise anger. Twitter was used to coordinate efforts and YouTube helped get the word out."

That power caused a lot of unrest inside Mubarak's administration.

"It goes without saying that the Egyptian government clearly feared how these tools were being used based on their actions to block [Internet] access," said Ray. "And it's important to not overlook the role of social media in providing support around the globe."

Shimmin also noted that the events in Egypt will have an immediate effect on the image of social networking.

"This isn't just a place to share drunken party pictures anymore," he said. "It's a way to communicate in a way you couldn't before and it gives you a sense of solidarity with people."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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