Social media by definition is a way people interact online – networks and virtual communities where they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas. Internet users spend more time on social networking sites than any other type of site.
The first major social network to launch was SixDegrees. This site was based off the “six-degrees of separation” concept and lasted from 1997 to 2001. It allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally. If the person was not a member of the site, they were invited to join. Users could send messages and post bulletin board items to people in their first, second, and third degrees, and see their connections to any other user on the site.
Friendster was a close friend of Napster, the popular peer-to-peer Internet file-sharing service. The site went live in 2002 and gained 3 million users in the first few months. The site was based on the Circle of Friends social network allowing individuals to network in virtual communities. The site was the most popular social network through 2004, and was dethroned by MySpace. The website actually relaunched as a gaming site, but eventually shut down in June 2015.
MySpace launched in 2003. From 2005 until 2008, it was the most popular social networking site. MySpace allowed users to create profiles, add photos, connect with friends and share information. Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe co-founded the site, and as a result Tom was every user’s first friend. The site was widely used by musicians and artists as a way to share music. The site even allowed users to embed a music player on his/her personal profile.
MySpace was eventually overtaken by the giant we know today as Facebook. However, these three sites weren’t the only early forms of social media. Instant messaging services such as AOL and ICQ were other virtual ways for people to connect with friends online. Users spent hours thinking of the perfect “away” message to show their friends. For the first time, friends could “talk” in real time without picking up a phone or seeing each other in person.
Message boards and forums also allowed people to interact and share online about a common interest or topic. In this format, people weren’t necessarily talking to friends or even acquaintances they knew. People could seek advice about health concerns, share their love of music or voice their opinion on a news story. With this online communication, users could be more anonymous than having to sign up for an online profile.
Think about how social media has grown and developed in the past 15 years. Even 10 years ago, there would have never been a class at OBU dedicated to social media. Even though these early sites may not be relevant today when talking about social networking, it helped pave the way and develop the major players we have like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. They helped transform how we communicate online, how people are able to interact with one another and how businesses and companies can get in on those conversations.
For discussion in the comments –
What was the first social network that you joined? When was that and how old were you?
What elements of some of these early networking sites influenced today’s major social networks?
Read this article – Why do you think that instant messaging and blogs should be included when talking about the history of social media?