I know it's a Q&A site, but does it fall under the umbrella of social networking? There's a raging debate here at work, so I thought I'd put this question to the community.

  • 2
    I'd like to go on the record as thinking that this isn't a social networking site!!
    – DaveDev
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:35
  • 19
    If they're considering blocking social networking sites (pure speculation on my part, which tells you the kind of place that I currently work at) then I'd argue very strongly that SO is not a social network. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:52
  • 1
    good point @Bill, fortunately they're not considering that. StackOverflow & the rest of the StackExchange sites are the few that aren't restricted by WebMarshal (or as it's otherwise known, WebNazi)
    – DaveDev
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 15:38
  • 7
    Social networking on a site frequented almost entirely by geeks? Seems counter-productive to me...
    – James
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 13:14
  • 5
    if you want counter-productive, you should go to reddit.com
    – DaveDev
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 14:25
  • @DaveDev: To your question: Look here. That's why
    – genesis
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 15:11
  • @genesis-φ: thanks - makes sense. I'll modify the question to remove the edit (an enquiry into why this was getting attention today, almost a year after after it was posted)
    – DaveDev
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 15:17
  • BTW where did you spot that your question is "getting" more attention?
    – genesis
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 15:18
  • 1
    My notification bar at the top was lighting up any time someone answered a question or added a comment.
    – DaveDev
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 15:19
  • I don't have access to read this full IEEE Software article, but its public Abstract says [former] Stack Overflow CTO David Fullerton was interviewed on the topic of Social Networking Meets Software Development - maybe someone with access may be interested to read it in full to see if David Fullerton weighed in with any explicit opinion.
    – cellepo
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 1:36

7 Answers 7


According to Wikipedia:

A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called "nodes," which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.

So I'd say no. It would seem like connections between the nodes is the definitive feature of a social network and we don't have that.

  • 5
    Agreed. The only "connections" SO really has are tags, and those link questions, not people. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:24
  • 5
    "a social structure made up of individuals [...] which are tied (connected) by [...] common interest..." Does that not describe SO?
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 1:53
  • 2
    @Purmou In that way, forums are also social media, as are many sites that have users and discussions. Actually, now that I think about it, are forums social media?
    – Belladonna
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 16:34
  • @Charlotte according to Wikipedia, yes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – cellepo
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 23:50

No, it is not. It's a Q&A site.

  • We can't connect to friends.
  • We don't have a means for private messages.
  • We don't share pictures of our dog, kids, or house.
  • 37
    ... although sometimes we share pictures of ourselves in pyjamas ;)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:37
  • 6
    Point, but luckily there isn't a badge for that ;-). Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:38
  • 5
    for newcomers: the easteregg Jon referred to :) Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:39
  • I like this answer. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:40
  • 2
    I should have just retweeted this answer. It says basically the same as mine. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:45
  • I like your comment, @Bill the Lizard. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 13:47
  • 1
    I like the fact that Daniel likes our comments and answers. ;-). Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:00
  • 1
    gamecat likes this Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:01
  • I would just like to disavow any responsibility for, interest in, authority over or knowledge of Jon's post. Well, the "knowledge of" part ended 30 seconds ago, but the rest is still true.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:17
  • @Pop: it was bound to happen :p Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 12:00
  • For how long have Web2 and social network meant posting private pictures? Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 9:36
  • the last 2 are doable on chat rooms though
    – caub
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 7:45
  • @caub, shush. You'll get chat filtered, and we can't do without chat.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 14:29
  • Technically we do have DMs?
    – J-Cake
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 11:45

I'd call it an anti-social networking site.

  • 3
    Only if you equate social to fun. Or if you're on Math Overflow, I guess.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:52
  • 2
    I would post a comment to this, if I didn't hate talking to people so much. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:54
  • @gno: But you just posted a comment... or is it OK as long as the comment is hostile in nature?
    – Aarobot
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 15:08
  • Antisocial would be: maintaining links with people we don't like, posting compromising pictures of them and sending hate mail. You can call it Disgracebook, or flunkedOut. Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 12:27
  • Its not a social website period, and it doesn't actively fight against social network. Its purely a Q & A site. Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 13:53

Stack Overflow forms a social structure, wherein we have patterns that define our relationship to the site and to each other.

While social networks almost always exist within every social structure, social structures need not formalize or recognize the networks that form within them. Stack Overflow is a good example of a social structure that does not recognize the social networks that are formed within its cultivated social structure.

Social networks come in a variety of forms, and for very broad definitions Stack Overflow comes close. However, one of the defining characteristics common to nearly every social network is that people define specific interpersonal relationships within the social structure.

People are forming such relationships within Stack Overflow, but the site and software do not formalize these relationships.

I wouldn't say that Stack Overflow is a social network until the site and software themselves formally recognize those relationships.

In fact, far from supporting social networks, Stack Overflow has a few features that discourage social networks from forming within its social structure. If you want to talk to a given individual, your only on-site option is a public comment on one of their posts. While you and someone else may share in common your knowledge of Ruby, unless you encounter them off site you may never know that you also share the enjoyment of, say, painting. Chat fills the gap a little bit, but only for those that choose to participate.

  • I'm satisfy with this answer. Adam, can I ask you if you have good knowledge about sociology?
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Ooker No, while I'm interested in social systems that humans form, how they form, and how they can be guided, I have no particular expertise in them.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 19:30
  • If you are interested in them, that's enough for me. I want to ask if I add this feature on my own browser, will it makes SE become a social network site for only me?
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 19:41
  • @Ooker In some small way, yes. It won't change how others use the site at all.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:19

It is not a social network due to the main ideological rule on which Stack stands - it is the value of question and value of answers you should care about. Nothing else really matters. Personalities just doesn't matter.


Stack Overflow does not provide a non-public means of user-exchange. Thus I guess you can apply a lot of pre-existing analysis of twitter user exchange to SO.

The public-only means of communication definitely helps the aspect of transparency a lot.


The above answers give an academic, textbook-like (and dare I say, inconsequential) analysis to the question. I'd like to offer a practical perspective that business strategy planners (such as Facebook's CEO) should care a lot more about.

Anecdotally, I get my fill of bonding with other human beings via Stack Overflow to the point I am not as compelled to use Facebook to partake in this attention economy trade. Seeing one of those red balls in the Stack Overflow menu bar gives me the same acknowledgement of my existence by other beings, which the human evoloutionarily (?) craves, as those red alert sprites that Facebook's menu bar does.

This is significant from a competitor analysis point of view. Stack Overflow is a substitute product for Facebook within a certain demographic. So I would say yes it is a form of social networking.

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  • This answer is off-topic. Commented May 2, 2019 at 0:16
  • 1
    There may be some "social networking" happening on Stack Overflow, but that does not make it a social networking site any more than Amazon is one. What makes a social networking site is the functionality and focus it has.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 21:39
  • 1
    I think it is ontopic, but unclear.
    – peterh
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 12:07

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