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Mobile social networks (MSNs) are mobile communication systems focusing not only on the behaviour but also on the social needs of the users. In a broader view all mobile systems used by people in their everyday lives can be characterized as MSNs, since all interactions taking place follow social rather than random patterns. Whether the deployed communication system takes into account the social background of the underlying network, depends on its form and capabilities. This article presents a review of the relevant work published in MSNs. Initially the basic architectures and components are summarized. Then the basic social properties of the network, as found in the key literature, are extensively examined. These properties are the main source of inspiration for new MSN protocols and applications, especially for non centralized systems. Finally the key research problems and the open issues in the area are presented, including future applications and privacy concerns.