The History of Social Media

Social interaction is imperative in culture and in trade. In this world of fragile relationships and difficult dealings, accessible and feasible techniques are needed so that we can communicate easily with one another and participate in interactive conversations. Social media is the use of digital (and often mobile) technologies and Internet-based applications for exchanging or creating conversation. In other words, it is is media for social interaction.

The History of Social Media

Presently, social media is an integral part of modern society, and social networking is a big industry. With virtually instantaneous response time, hogging space and time has never been so possible. Just a click opens the door of possibilities and makes one realize that there are answers for just about every question. Thus, social media is a blend of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

History has seen a wide range of technologies that have facilitated conversation, and in just the last 40 years there have been a startling number of innovations in this sector. People have recently begun using digital media for networking, socializing and gathering information. There are niche websites for every individual and specialized interest. There are websites for sharing photos, sharing videos, telling friends about activities, meeting new people and connecting with old friends. Celebrities regularly update their statuses and interact with fans on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

Social media can be effective for building social authority; individuals or organizations can establish themselves as experts in their fields, and then they can begin to influence these fields. Thus, one of the foundational concepts in social media is that, with social media, one cannot control one’s message completely, but one can contribute to discources. Social media technologies are capable of reaching audiences all over the world.

The Evolution of Social Media

Social media has come a long way since the days of the telegraph and even the more recent days of Internet-relay chats (IRC), and it continues to evolve. In the last few years, social media has become a convention of the online landscape. Major social networks and social media websites make changes and improvements on a fairly regular basis, so it’s sure to keep evolving in coming years.

Social Everything!

Social media has become an essential part of the lives of millions of people around the world. Whether one wants to look up book or movie reviews that come from the general public (rather than professional reviewers) or search for advice about major life issues, social networks offer unlimited ways to approach these things. So next time a question troubles you, don’t scratch your brains out; just avail yourself of the Internet. Try asking on Twitter instead of using a search engine and poring over pages of search results. Generally, you’ll get better information from the Twitter crowd, and it will take less time.

Different Types of Social Media

Social media is a form of mass media, and it can be used for interactive, informational, educational or promotional purposes. It can take many forms, including Internet forums, blogs (including microblogging), wikis, podcasts, photograph or picture sharing, video rating and social bookmarking.

Blogging

Blogs are a common feature of the Internet. Users create their own blog domains and display self-made content. Bloggers write about their personal lives or specialize in topical areas like music, food, religion, health, travel, product news and reviews and so on. There is no need to be a professional or have any kind of expertise, but deep knowledge of the subject matter will lead to success. Blogs are enhanced by media uploads, widgets, streaming radio, podcasts and advertising.

Event Updates

Some websites cater to specific audiences (professionals, creative people, bands, social event planners etc.) and share pertinent event dates and current happenings. Users can buy tickets or participate in events online. There are online calendars for those who actively attend events locally, nationally and internationally.

Social Networking

Users with profiles on social-networking websites put up pictures and videos and interact with friends and family at times and places that are convenient to them. On social-networking websites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, users connect to friends, join groups, learn about events to attend, buy tickets, play games, chat and more. It seems like every second person has a profile on one of these websites, and everyone else is fast catching up.

Emailing and Chatting

MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Gmail and so on enable users to send reasonably private messages to one another from almost anywhere at any time. It is an instantaneous way of keeping in touch with dear ones who are away, or it can be used for business interactions. Email accounts are easy to use and don’t require in-depth knowledge of Internet inner workings. Web conferencing and online chat rooms are a similar and popular part of social media as well.

News

News providers (television networks, newspapers, etc.) typically have official websites that run their latest stories. CNN and BBC, for example, not only showcase news and live footage but provide platforms on which users can voice opinions or start discussions.

Photo and Video Sharing

Photographs taken with digital cameras and cell phones can be uploaded by users to websites that can be accessed by friends and family. Videos, too, can be uploaded and viewed through search engines that recognize video “tags” and produce results based on what one has typed in the search field. Such websites often record statistics to show their users how many hits a photo or video has received.

Music and Radio

Popular songs can be listened to online on music websites. Users can access genre-categorized music collections and downloads available either for free or for purchase. Bands and artists have official websites as well to promote albums, sell their stuff and even provide concert tickets to fans. What makes it social, though, is that users can share with others and discuss their particular interests.

Gaming

Gamers can now access the latest as well as old-school video games online, and many online games are interactive; players can play with and against other players in virtual environments. Many websites also provide downloads and information.

Shopping

Social media also allows users to indulge in Internet shopping and buy anything from books to cars by ordering or bidding. See eBay or Amazon.com for examples.

Distance Education

Some colleges interact with students online and give courses and certification, even from across international borders.

These different types of social media are becoming more advanced as time passes, and people now turn to the Internet for anything and everything. It’s increasingly convenient for people to access the world from the comfort of their homes. We order take-out food, book tickets, and shop without having to go to a mall. This indicates that there are many more uses to come, when it comes to social media.

Characteristics of Social Media

Social media is relatively economical and accessible for individuals who wish to publish or access digital content. The main characteristic of social media is the ability to reach audiences of all sizes, but it also boasts other traits:

  • It’s approachable; social media technologies are capable of reaching a global audience. By their very nature they are decentralized, and they are distinguished by multiple features that facilitate productivity and utility.
  • It’s accessible; the means of production are publically owned; social media tools are generally available to the public at low or no cost.
  • It’s usable; most social media production does not require specialized skills or training. Anyone with access can operate these tools.
  • It’s timely; the lag between communications produced by social media is negligible. It is capable of virtually instantaneous response time (usually, only the participants are responsible for delays).
  • It’s eternal, yet changing; the social media landscape can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.

Exciting Moments and Milestones

There have been exciting moments and major milestones since the humble beginnings of social media. Take a look at the timeline:

Ancient History

The earliest ways to send messages over long distances were probably both audio and visual. Smoke signals by day and beacon fires by night were used by the ancient peoples of China, Egypt, and Greece. Drums were used in many parts of the world to extend the range of the human voice for communication as well.

550 BC: The Postal Service

Reliable evidence indicates that the first regular postal system in the world was established in ancient Iran, where horse riders and horse-drawn wagons carried mail. Usually, mail consisted of governmental dispatches and was delivered from one place to another. Most of the world’s mail was transported this way until the late 18th century, when economic growth encouraged a demand for better mail services.

The Forefathers of Social Media

1792: Telegraph

The telegraph is a device for transmitting and receiving messages over long distances. The non-electric telegraph was invented by Claude Chappe in 1792. This system was visual; it used semaphore, a flag-based alphabet, and depended on a line of sight for communication. Although it is associated with sending messages via an electric current, the word “telegraph” was coined to describe the visual system of sending coded messages.

1865: Pneumatic Post

The increasing number of express messages between businesses, financial and legal offices and banks in growing cities, as well as busy street traffic, necessitated new methods of telegram and letter transportation. The pneumatic post was introduced to combat the shortcomings of the telegraphic network in Paris. Small metal cartridges holding telegrams and letters were transported by pneumatic pressure; messages could then be conveyed speedily and independently of outside circumstances.

1890: Telephone

Probably no means of communication has revolutionized the daily lives of ordinary people more than the telephone, a technology that simply allowed people to talk to one another over long distances. Credit for the invention of the electric telephone is frequently disputed, and new controversies over the issue have arisen from time to time. Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, among others, have been credited with the telephone’s invention. The Bell and Edison patents, however, were forensically victorious and commercially decisive.

1891: Radio

In 1891, Nikola Tesla began researching wireless technology. He developed the radio as a means of reliably producing radio frequencies, publicly demonstrated the principles of radio and transmitted long-distance signals. He obtained a U.S. patent for the invention of the radio (then defined as “wireless transmission of data”).

The 20th Century

1966: Email

Email (electronic mail) is a method of exchanging digital messages from computer to computer, between one or more recipients and usually through a network. Early email systems required the sender and the recipient both to be online at the same time for what we now think of as instant messaging. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks, and email systems are built on a store-and-forward model; email servers accept, forward, deliver and store messages. Neither the users nor their computers are required to be online simultaneously.

1969: CompuServe

CompuServe was the first to offer online services, though they were available during nighttime hours only. It was very expensive; it cost six dollars per hour plus long-distance fees (it could run $30/hr or more). CompuServe was the first company to incorporate a chat program into their service.

1969: ARPANET

ARPANET is regarded as a grandfather to the Internet. It was created by the Advanced Research and Projects Agency (ARPA) so that defense contractors and scientists could share research more efficiently. The design began as a computerized version of the nuclear bomb shelter; ARPANET protected the flow of information between military installations by creating a network of geographically separated computers that could exchange information via a newly developed protocol (rule for how computers interact) called Network Control Protocol (NCP).

1978: MUD

A multi-user dungeon—later multi-user dimension, then multi-user domain—was an adventure game with multiple players invented by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at Essex University in England. This game was originally little more than a series of inter-connected locations where one could move and chat. Players could read or view descriptions of rooms, objects and other players. They typically interacted with one another and the world by typing commands that resembled natural language.

Traditional MUDs implement a computer role-playing game set in a fantasy world populated by fictional races and monsters, and players chose from a number of classes in order to gain specific skills or powers. The objectives in this sort of game are to slay monsters, explore a fantasy world, complete quests, go on adventures, create a story by roleplaying and advance characters.

1978: BBS

The bulletin board system (BBS) was a computerized system used to exchange public messages or files. It was the first type of website that allowed users to log on and interact with one another. They were primarily hosted on personal computers and accessed only over phone lines with dial-up modems, and only one person at a time could have access. Users could upload and download software and data, read news and bulletins and exchange messages with other users either through electronic mail or on the public message boards.

1979: Usenet

Usenet was a globally distributed Internet discussion system and was the brainchild of Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis. Usenet was an early online bulletin board where users could post articles or posts (as “news”) to newsgroups. The first copies of early Web browsers were distributed through Usenet, which had no centralized server or dedicated administrator.

1985: The WELL

The Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link (WELL) was a social-networking website that started in the form of generalized online communities. Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant, the founders, started with a dialog between the writers and readers of the Whole Earth Review, which set the tone for the playful and intellectual gathering that continues today.

1985: GEnie

GEnie was founded by General Electric’s Information Services division for the purpose of making use of idle time-sharing mainframes after normal U.S. business hours and also to provide consumers with forums, data exchange and email within their system. It was a text-based service and the charges were five to six dollars per hour for non-primetime use and $36 per hour for daytime use. GEnie offered games, shopping, mail and forums.

1986 : LISTSERV

LISTSERV is an automatic mailing-list server developed by Eric Thomas. When email is addressed to a LISTSERV mailing list, it is automatically sent to everyone on the list. The result is similar to a newsgroup or forum, except that the messages are transmitted as email and are therefore available only to individuals on the list. LISTSERV was originally developed on IBM mainframes but was later ported to run on UNIX, IBM, VMS, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and MPE.

1988: IRC

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is the father of instant messaging as we know it today. It was a form of real-time Internet text messaging or chatting and was created primarily for discussion in forums as mass communication, but it also allowed one-to-one communication via private messaging along with chat and data transfer. IRC was used for sharing files and links and otherwise keeping in touch but, being mostly UNIX-based, was inaccessible for many.

1994: The Palace

The Palace is a software program used to access graphical chat rooms (servers) called “palaces.” The Palace was created by Jim Bumgardner, an employee of Time Warner Interactive. Messages appear as chat bubbles above users’ avatars (like the speech bubbles of comic books). Each room in a palace is represented by a large image that serves as a backdrop for the users. By clicking in certain areas in a room, called doors, users can travel to different rooms.

1997: Six Degrees

Six Degrees was the first modern social network. Andrew Weinreich, a well known entrepreneur and Internet executive, was the founder. His concept was to create an online social network to organize the process of “meeting people you don’t know through the people you do know.” In a way, this website was the first to bring together certain defining features of social-networking services, such as user profiles, friends lists, and private messages. Users created static profiles and could become friends with other users. This website is no longer functional, but it had about one million members at its peak. Perhaps it was too advanced for its time?

1998: MoveOn

MoveOn is an American non-profit, progressive, public-policy advocacy group and political-action committee. The website was founded by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd to counter efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. MoveOn encouraged voters to encourage Congress to censure Clinton and move on to more important issues. It continues to advocate for grassroots involvement in politics. It took an active stance against the Iraq war and supports causes like universal health care, green businesses, campaign finance reform and reduced dependence on oil.

1999: LiveJournal

LiveJournal took a new approach to social networking. It was a social network built around constantly updating personal blogs, and it encouraged its users to follow one another’s writing, to create groups and to otherwise interact. It was, in fact, the precursor to real-time updates that are current in online social networks.

1999: Asian Avenue

Asian Avenue was launched by co-founders Benjamin Sun, Peter Chen, Grace Chang, Michael Montero and Calvin Wong. It’s the largest online community for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indians and others in the Asian and Asian-American family to network. Users meet and connect with other users by chatting or posting photos or videos. It’s a reliable destination for Asian news about music, fashion, sports, events, business and politics. Users can find romance, entertainment and even jobs.

1999: Black Planet

BlackPlanet is an online niche in social-networking that was founded by Omar Wasow. It targeted and is now the largest online community for African-Americans. It provides music, jobs, forums, photos, personal ads, chatting and groups, all tailored to the specific interests of the black community.

1999: Napster

Shawn Fanning invented Napster, a peer-to-peer music-sharing website that allowed subscribes to swap music files. Napster was a controversial application because users were sharing music over the Internet and thereby avoiding having to purchase CDs. After downloading Napster, a user got access to music in MP3 format; one had only to type in the name of an artist or song, receive a list of available files, and then download the music from another user’s hard drive. Users needed to continually check the Napster directory because the music that was available depended on who was online at the time.

1999: Third Voice

In May of 1999, Third Voice launched its annotation software, which allows Web surfers to post public commentary (which can be seen by all other Third Voice users) on any website:

The free [Third Voice] browser utility ‘snaps onto’ the side of a Web browser window, inviting users to post their views on news, products, and politics. If posted as public notes (private notes are also an option), comments can be seen—amid highlighted areas of text and footnotes—by any other user that has installed Third Voice. Readers can comment on each other’s postings, leading to what Third Voice calls ‘inline discussions.’

Third Voice is the Web assistant that travels with your browser and adds a whole new dimension to your Web experience. When Third Voice is activated, Web pages come alive as ordinary words are transformed into links to valuable and interesting information on sports, music, entertainment and more.

1999: Blogger

Blogger, one of the earliest blog-publishing tools, was first launched on August 23, 1999 by Pyra Labs. It has been credited for helping to popularize the format. Initially, Blogger was entirely free and there was no income model. When Pyra Labs’ money was diminished, the employees worked without pay for weeks, even months, and eventually many left the company. The co-founder of Blogger, Evan Williams, ran the company by himself after the losses. Soon afterward, advertising started to support Blogger, and Blogger Pro emerged.

1999: Epinions

Epinions is a general consumer-review website where visitors can read reviews about a variety of items to help them decide whether or not to purchase, or they can join for free and begin writing reviews that may earn them money and recognition (according to the website’s FAQ). Epinions was acquired by Shopping.com (known as DealTime.com at the time of the acquisition) in 2003.

In the New Millenium

2000: LunarStorm

LunarStorm is an advertisement-financed, Swedish social-networking website for teenagers. It is operated by a company called LunarWorks. According to the company’s official statistics, the website had 1.2 million members in 2007, of whom some 70% are 12–17 years old.The website has since drastically dropped in popularity, and in June 2010 Wyatt Media Groups (the current owner of LunarStorm) announced that it would be shut down on August 18th due to lack of activity.

2001: Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia of multilingual, web-based, free content. This project is based on an openly editable model. Wikipedia works as an information bank and provides links to guide users to related pages that offer supplementary information. Its content is written by mostly anonymous volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can make changes to Wikipedia articles (except in certain cases). Users can contribute anonymously or by using their real identities. Since its creation Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites.

2001: Ryze

Ryze.com, founded by Adrian Scott in San Francisco, is a free social-networking website designed to link business professionals, particularly new entrepreneurs. Ryze helps people make connections and grow their networks. It can be used to increase business, build careers, find jobs, make sales or just keep in touch with friends. It had a heavy influence on Friendster, which was founded by early Ryze member Jonathan Abrams in 2002.

2001: Cyworld

Cyworld is South Korea’s most popular social networking website. It was developed as an online dating service that would provide an open and public meeting place for users. In 2001, CyWorld launched the minihompy feature, which allowed each user to create a home page. It was highly successful because celebrities and politicians took to this platform to reach out to their fans and audiences. CyWorld’s members comprised more than one third of Korea’s entire population, and it had a strong penetration (ninety percent) in the young-adult market; in 2005, practically every South Korean in their twenties—25% of the population—was a user. By 2006 this user base numbered 19 million, but it dropped to 18 million by 2008. Cyworld’s reception in some overseas markets did not prove enthusiastic.

2002: Skyblog

Skyblog.com was founded by Skyrock CEO Pierre Bellanger, and Skyrock.com is a social-networking website that offers free Web space where users can create blogs, add profiles and exchange messages with other registered members. The website also showcases the original musical compositions of its members. In May 2007, after abandoning the Skyblog.com brand, Skyrock.com was launched as a full-scale social network.

2002: Friendster

Friendster was the first modern, general social-networking website; it was a new kind of dating website whose objective was to provide a place for meeting new people that was safer than places used in daily life, as well as faster. Friendster operated by allowing people to discover their friends, and then friends of friends, and so on to expand their networks. Users contact other members, sustain those contacts and share online content and media with those contacts. The website is also used for dating and discovering new events, bands and hobbies. Users may share videos, photos, messages and comments with other members via their profiles and networks.

2002: Fotolog

Fotolog is the world’s leading photo-blogging website, one of the world’s largest social-networking websites and a global cultural phenomenon. More than 22 million members in over 200 countries use Fotolog to express themselves through online photo diaries and blogs. It was launched by Scott Heiferman and Adam Seifer as a small community project with 200 friends.

2003: del.icio.us

Del.icio.us is a social-bookmarking website for storing, sharing and discovering Web bookmarks; one can bookmark any content one finds online, then tag that content and share it with other users. Users can search for bookmarks or browse them with tags,view the most popular content and up-and-coming content (not unlike most social news websites).

2003: Second Life

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that is accessible on the Internet. A free client program called the Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other as avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade virtual property and services with one another or travel the world. Second Life is intended for people aged 16 and over, and as of 2011 it has more than 20 million registered user accounts.

2003: Photobucket

Photobucket was the first major photo-sharing website that also allowed image hosting, video hosting and slideshow creation. It was founded by Alex Welch and Darren Crystal as a place to store, create and share photos and videos for life. One can upload one’s best pictures, images, graphics, icons and videos and share them by email or link them to websites like Facebook and Twitter. Photobucket allows users to share photos in public or in password-protected albums, and users get 500 MB of storage (lowered from 1 GB in August of 2009).

2003: Hi5

Hi5 is another major social network, established in 2003 and currently boasting more than 60 million active members. In Hi5, profile privacy is treated little differently than in other networks; a user’s network consists of their own contacts as well as secondary contacts (friends of friends) and tertiary contacts (friends of friends of friends). Users can set their profiles to be seen only by their network members or by Hi5 users in general. Hi5 is not particularly popular in the U.S. but it has a large user base in parts of Asia, Latin America and Central Africa.

2003: LinkedIn

LinkedIn was a business-oriented social-networking website, and it was one of the first. Users fill in a profile that is basically a resumé and interact through private messaging. Members can discover inside connections, recommended job candidates, industry experts and business partners. Other features have been added gradually, including groups, question-and-answer forums and advanced profile features such as real-time updates. LinkedIn strengthens and extends one’s existing network of trusted contacts. This website is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

2003: Plaxo

Plaxo is an online address book and social-networking service. Users can quickly import contacts from multiple websites, services and devices into an organized, single source. Plaxo automatically keeps contacts up to date and in sync across the Web, Outlook, Mac and iPhone. It was founded by Napster co-founder Sean Parker and two Stanford engineering students, Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring.

2003: tribe.net

Tribe.net hosts an online community of friends and is similar to other social networking websites. The “tribe” was founded by Paul Martino, Mark Pincus and Valerie Syme. As of March 2004, the user population was heavily skewed toward people living in the San Francisco Bay area, though the geographic distribution is gradually normalizing as people from other places join. As of September 2006 it had over 500,000 members.

2003: LastFM

LastFM was founded in the UK by Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel, Michael Breidenbruecker and Thomas Willomitzer (all from Germany) as an Internet radio station and music community website. It uses similar music profiles to generate dynamic playlists and builds a detailed profile of each user along with his or her musical taste by recording details of the songs the user listens to, either from Internet radio stations, the user’s computer or portable music devices. This information is transferred to LastFM’s database either via the music player itself or a plug-in installed on the user’s music player. The profile data is then displayed on the user’s profile page. The website offers numerous social networking features and can recommend and play artists similar to the user’s favorites.

2003: MySpace

MySpace is a social-networking website that originally allowed communication via private messages, public comments posted to a user profiles and bulletins mailed out to friends. Blogs were also a big part of MySpace profiles (each member automatically got one). MySpace differentiated itself from competitors by allowing users to completely customize the looks of their profiles. Users could also post music and embed videos from other websites. In 2006 MySpace introduced MySpace IM, an instant-messaging client that lets users chat with their friends. Other recent additions to MySpace’s functionality include the addition of real-time status updates and news feeds that show friend activity.

2003: Couchsurfing

CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. The CouchSurfing project was conceived by Casey Fenton in 1999 and launched on Jan 1, 2003. It’s a hospitality-exchange network wherein members come together for cultural exchange, friendship and learning experiences. Today, over a million people who might otherwise never meet are able to visit one another.

2004: aSmallWorld

aSmallWorld is the world’s leading private online community. It captures an existing international network of people who are connected by three degrees of separation. Members have similar backgrounds, interests and perspectives. aSmallWorld’s unique platform offers powerful tools and user-generated content to help members manage their private, social and business lives.

2004: Hyves

Hyves is a Dutch social-networking service founded by Raymond Spanjar, Koen Kam and Floris Rost van Tonningen. Hyves is, after Facebook, the most popular social-networking website in the Netherlands. Its more than seven million unique visitors (more than half the country’s population) are mainly Dutch, and it is a major competitor for websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

2004: BiggerPockets

BiggerPockets is a premier real-estate community and resource portal. It was designed for people interested in real estate: investors, professionals, homeowners and many others. Not only would the novice investor feel at home here, so would everyone—from the most experienced developer to the real-estate agent or private financier. BiggerPockets continues to be popular with ordinary men and women, and it is increasingly the must-visit resource for many of this nation’s most important national, regional and local news organizations.

2004: Digg

Digg is a social news website founded by Kevin Rose, Ron Gorodetzky, Jay Adelson and Owen Byrne so that people could discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet. Digg users share links to anything online and other users vote that content up (“dig” it) or down (“bury” it). Users can also comment on content posted by others and keep a friends list, but voting stories up and down is the website’s cornerstone function. Many stories are submitted every day, but only the most “dugg” stories appear on the front page.

2004: Catster

Catster is a cat-themed social networking and forums-based website. Users of the website create a pet page that is customizable with which they can give treats or purchase virtual items using what are called “zealies.” This virtual currency is allotted to users after they engage in some of the website’s activities or by using PayPal or purchasing a Plus subscription.

2004: Ning

“Ning” is Chinese for “peace”, and the website called Ning is an online platform for creating niche social networks. Ning started development in October 2004 and publicly launched its platform a year later. It was co-founded by Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini. New users can either create social networks for any niche or special interest they choose or join any of more than 1.5 million existing networks (just use the search feature to find social networks that are compatible with your interests). Networks are hosted by Ning but can take on their own personalities and can even pay to have their own branding (domain name) instead of the Ning brand.

2004: Care2

Care2 is the largest online community whose goal is to empower people to lead healthy, green lifestyles while taking action on important causes such as human rights, animal welfare and global warming. Those involved in Care2 want to restore the world’s balance and are committed to using the power of business to make a positive social and earth-friendly impact on the world.

2004: Piczo

Piczo is an online photo website builder and community; it helps users build free, advertising-supported websites. Users add images, text, guest books, message boxes, videos, music and other content to their websites with plain text and HTML.

Its partners were YouTube, VideoEgg, Photobucket, Flock, Yahoo and PollDaddy. Initially, it wasn’t a blog company; it was just a website where one could create one’s own website. In fact, blogs weren’t included as one of the original features.

2004: Dodgeball

Dodgeball was a location-based social-networking software provider for mobile devices. Users text-messaged their location to the service, which then notified them of crushes, friends, friends’ friends and interesting venues nearby. Google acquired Dodgeball in 2005 and discontinued it in 2009, replacing it with Google Latitude.

2004: Mixi

Mixi is one of several social-networking websites in Japan. It was founded by Kenji Kasahara under E-Mercury Inc. (actually Mixi Inc). It’s a typical social-networking website; users can send and receive messages, write a diary, read and comment on others’ diaries, organize and join communities and invite their friends. It has enjoyed a steady growth in its user base. In 2005 the website had more than one million users and five times that many less than a year later.

2004: Multiply

Multiply is a “family-friendly” social network and media-sharing website that emphasizes security and privacy more than many other networks. It is privately held with backing by VantagePoint, Venture Partners, Point Judith Capital Transcosmos and private investors. Its users have the option to set security levels on each item they post, making things public, network-only or invite-only.

2004: Facebook

Facebook is a social-networking service and website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook Inc. Users create personal profiles, add other users as friends, exchange messages and post photos and videos. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups or networks organized by workplace, school, or college or other characteristics. Facebook now allows anyone to become a registered user of the website, so long as they are at least 13 years old.

2004: Dogster

Dogster is a dog-themed social network and forums-based website. Users of the website create a pet page, which is a customizable Web page through which they can give treats or purchase virtual items using “zealies.” This virtual currency is allotted to users after they engage in the website’s activities or by using PayPal or purchasing a Plus subscription. Its sister website is Catster, a cat-oriented website with a similar format.

2004: Orkut

Orkut is a social-networking website that is owned and operated by Google Inc. The website is named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten. It is Google’s social network, and it has more than 65 million users. Users share media and status updates and communicate through instant messaging (IM). The service is designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Although Orkut is less popular in the United States than its competitors (Facebook and MySpace), it is one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil.

2004: Flickr

Flickr is an image- and video-hosting website, Web-services suite and online community created by Ludicorp (a Vancouver-based company) and later acquired by Yahoo!. In addition to being a popular website where photographically inclined users share photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media.

Flickr has become a social network in its own right in recent years; it now has groups and photo pools, and it allows users to create profiles, add friends and organize images and videos into photo sets and albums. For mobile users, Flickr has an official app that can be used on iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7—but no other mobile devices. Several third-party apps offer alternatives, however.

2005: Black Planet (relaunch)

2005: Asian Avenue (relaunch)

2005: Reddit

Reddit is another socially generated news website that operates in ways similar to Digg; users vote content up or down, which causes it to become more or less prominent on the Reddit home page. Reddit, like Digg, also allows users to comment on posted items.

2005: Bebo

Bebo is a social-networking website whose name stands for “blog early, blog often.” It was founded by Michael Birch and his wife, Xochi Birch, at their home in San Francisco and is currently owned by Criterion Capital Partners. Users receive a personal profile page where they can post blogs, photographs, music, videos and questionnaires to which other users may answer. Additionally, users may add others as friends and send them messages and update their personal profiles to notify friends about their lives and activities.

2005: Xano

Xano profiles and updates users about the latest music (albums, songs, music videos and more).

2005: Facebook (redesign)

The famous Facebook was originally for Harvard students only, then all college students, but in September of 2005 it opened its doors to high school students (new users could register a “high school” account).

2005: YouTube

YouTube was the first major video-hosting and sharing website. Users can upload videos (each up to 10 minutes long) and share them through YouTube or by embedding them on other websites (social networks, blogs, forums etc).YouTube now allows users to upload high-definition (HD) videos and recently launched a service to provide TV shows and movies under license from their copyright holders. YouTube’s major social features include ratings, comments, and the option to subscribe to the channels of other users.

2005: Yahoo! 360°

Yahoo! 360° was a social-networking and personal communication portal operated by Yahoo! that enabled users to create personalwebsites, share photos from Yahoo! Photos, maintain blogs and lists, create and share public profiles and view currently online friends. It also featured a “friends’ updates” section, under which each friend’s latest update was summarized (for example: recent blog posts, updated lists or newly shared photos).

2005: Facebook (redesign)

Facebook had been successful on school campuses nationwide, so it expanded its membership to a different kind of campus: the corporate kind. It allowed only employees of a select 10 companies—and one non-profit organization—to join Facebook by using their respective .com and .org email addresses. (Until then, only people with a .edu address could create a Facebook profile.)

2006: Fabulously40

Fabulously40.com is a social network for women over forty that taps into the desire of middle-aged women to seek self identity. It is an engine that connects and supports women on the quest for re-invention:

After forty, change either happens to us or we make the change happen. Increasingly, this website is where women turn to create their changes for solutions, strategies and tips on everything from money to love and, more than that, for emotional support from a community of diverse women. With a million page views a month, Fabulously40 is the place to go for help and inspiration. Today’s women have more options than their mothers and especially their grandmothers never had and cosmetic surgery and injections are the least of it.

2006: Stylehive

Stylehive is a community of style leaders, bloggers and shoppers who are into fashion, beauty, design, home, technology and travel. The Stylehive website has various categories: fashion, beauty, home design, travel, blogs and reviews. It has 1,480,000 indexed pages in the Google search engine and 1,729,590 in Yahoo!.

2006: Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging service owned and operated by Twitter Inc. Users send and read messages called “tweets,” which are text-based posts displayed on a user’s profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default, but senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers. Twitter has a number of well-known users, such as celebrities and politicians, and it has generated a number of third-party websites and apps (it’s now more of a platform than a single service). There are Twitter clients for updating and managing followers, services that track Twitter trends, and services that allow users to post photos and videos directly to their home-page feed.

2006: My Church

MyChurch is a Christian social network that offers its services to Christian churches that follow the Nicene Creed. In addition to standard services offered by social-networking websites, MyChurch allows churches to post sermon podcasts and event calendars and collect tithes from members (for a service fee of $12 per month). Its revenue comes from advertising and a premium subscription business model, and it has a presence in over 6900 churches. MyChurch encourages non-Christians to join while actively excluding Christian Churches that do not subscribe to the Nicene Creed.

2006: QQ (relaunch)

Tencent QQ, or just QQ, is the most popular free instant-messaging computer program in mainland China. Tencent was founded in Shenzhen, China, in November of 1998, by Ma Huateng, and its instant-messaging service platform (“QQ”) was formally launched in February 1999. QQ is possibly the world’s largest online community. Since its relaunch, it has entered Chinese households and emerged as a modern cultural phenomenon. Aside from the chat program, QQ has also developed many sub-features such as games, virtual pets and ringtone downloads.

2006: Facebook (redesign)

Facebook realized, again, that it was wanted by everyone—not just Harvard students, college students, students and former students. It kept growing in order to accommodate this reality and is now open to those who graduated pre-Facebook (yes, there was such a time) and those who don’t have email addresses from their schools or workplaces. Everyone can connect.

2006: Ustream.tv

Ustream has become the streaming-video host of choice for celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Soleil Moon Frye. While most Ustream users only go live occasionally, some channels are live around the clock (these include mostly security cameras, animal cameras, traffic cameras and other stationary feeds). Viewers can post comments and ask questions directly to the feed host during live broadcasts, and this interactivity often engages users to a greater extent than other video websites where videos are posted after they’ve been filmed and edited rather than streamed live.

2006: Justin.tv

Justin.tv is a streaming-video host founded in October 2006 that lets lifecasters and live show creators to broadcast to hundreds or thousands of Internet users. There are more than 400,000 channels on Justin.tv, and they get more than 41 million unique visitors each month.

2007: Tumblr

Tumblr is a feature-rich, free blog-hosting platform that offers professional and fully customizable templates, bookmarklets, photos, mobile apps and a social network. It’s sort of a cross between a life-streaming application and a micro-blogging platform. When it launched, about 75,000 Tumble bloggers switched to the service immediately. Users post photos, video, text, audio, links, conversations and other content on blog-like websites. Mobile applications are also available for posting to Tumblr, making it ideal for life-streaming.

2007: Osmosus

Osmosus is a social network for the sustainable community, and it has a clear purpose: “encouraging people to come together around issues of sustainability for the improvement of our communities, our world and ultimately ourselves.” It was founded by Doran Aisenstat.

2007: Global Grind

Global Grind is a community-based website on which people can discover and share content from anywhere on the Web by linking to, voting for and commenting on each other’s content in a social and democratic way.

Globalgrind.com is a digital media company that promotes the broadest and deepest array of content of interest to the hip-hop community from the most authoritative sources across the web. The platform features exclusive blogs, video, music, news, gossip and politics, which users can submit, vote and comment on, and syndicate using Facebook, Twitter and other social-media tools.

2007: FriendFeed

FriendFeed was created to consolidate updates from social media (networking websites, bookmarking websites, blogs and micro-blogs). It was launched in 2007 and recently purchased by Facebook. Users can integrate most of their online activities into one area (Twitter, RSS feeds, and Flickr photos among others). The goal of FriendFeed, according to its website, is to make content on the Web more relevant and useful by using existing social networks as tools for discovering interesting information. Furthermore, “FriendFeed addresses the shortcomings of social media services which exclusively facilitate tracking of their own members’ social media activities on that particular social media service.”

2008: Kontain

Kontain is a next-generation social community, and its workings are slightly different than many other social networks because it was founded on the belief that visual updates are most powerful. The focus was on usability and allowing users to follow one another through photos, videos and music (rather than just simple status updates). Kontain also actively recruits businesses so that they can promote their services as a way to connect with customers.

2008: Ping.fm

Ping.fm is a free social-networking and micro-blogging Web service that enables users to post to multiple social networks simultaneously. Sharing an update on Ping.fm pushes the update to a number of different websites at once, so that individuals who use multiple social networks have only to update their status once rather than on all media. The concept came about while Ping.fm creators were updating status messages with micro-blogging websites Twitter and Tumblr; they wanted to make posting exactly the same information in two places possible.

2009: Posterous

Posterous is the newest major micro-blogging application by Y Combinator. Users post content via email. Emails can include attached photos or MP3s, and those are also posted. No initial sign-up is needed, which sets Posterous apart from most other social media services. It also supports integrated and automatic posting to other social media such as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. Posting can be done by logging in to the website’s rich-text editor, but it is particularly designed for mobile blogging (via email).

2009: Netlog

Netlog (formerly known as Facebox and Bingbox) is a Belgian social network and website. Members can keep in touch with others, create their own Web pages, extend their social network, publish their music playlists, share videos, post blogs and join groups. It is an online social portal specifically targeted to European youth. It is developed by Netlog NV, based in Ghent, Belgium.

2010: SportPost

Sportpost.com is the world’s first independent sports-news distribution platform:

Sportpost is the revolutionary new sports website that puts you—the fan—in charge. No more scouring the Web for your daily fix of sports content—Sportpost puts all the information that interests you right at your fingertips.

The website combines premium and user-generated sports videos with fan debates and a sports-star blog network. Fans have many options and much access to the world of sport, and they can share their love of sport with the world.

2010: Google Buzz

Google Buzz is a social-networking and messaging tool that is integrated into Google’s Web–based email program, Gmail. Google Buzz was announced on February 9, 2010. Users share links, photos, videos, status messages and comments that are organized into conversations. Users can share publicly with the world or privately to a group of friends. The creation of Buzz was Google’s attempt to compete with social-networking websites like Facebook and micro-blogging services like Twitter.

2011: Google Plus

Google+, a social network operated by Google, Inc., launched on June 28th, 2011 with integrations across a number of Google products, including Buzz and Profiles.

One key element of Google+ is a focus on targeted sharing within subsets of your social group, which are what Google calls Circles. Circles are simply small groups of people that you can share to, each with names like friends, family, classmates and co-workers.

2011: Facebook (redesign)

Once again, Facebook introduces new features that include redesigned news feed, scrollable Ticker box at the sidebar and poke button which is hidden away under a drop-down menu at the profile page.

Facebook already announced a revamped profile called the Timeline at its annual F8 conference. The new Timeline takes the place of your profile and provides a realtime stream of everything you’ve done, all the way back to your ‘birth’.

Looking to the Future

No one can know what the next big thing in social media will be, though there are many ways to influence and establish authority. The Internet has already become a necessary part of most people’s daily lives, and social-networking websites and blogs (including micro-blogs) are gaining in popularity all over the world.

I predict that there will soon be more social interaction happening on phones and iPads than on computers—especially by mobile-device users, but also by companies and the Web. Thus, information technology and service providers will begin to create solutions that are defined by our mobile consumption and usage behaviors. From online shopping to effortless, paperless transactions and check-ins to watching and creating videos with friends abroad to in-class learning and collaboration to managing health in real time…. An all-encompassing timeline of the seminal milestones in the history of social media—including those that have yet to happen—will be needed for posterity.

Over the rest of 2011, we’ll see a growing number of companies finally going beyond using social channels merely for building awareness and providing support. As social thinkers, these companies will use the social-media engine to make strategic decisions and execute their objectives, marketing plans, product roadmaps and more. We’ll also see a surge of service providers collecting social networks, video, mobile capabilities, cloud services and analytics, with their own unique services and proprietary capabilities.

Social media has dared to face new challenges. It requires effective marketing efforts and authority-building techniques; a purposeful social-media strategy can become an integral part of any complete and directed marketing plan. Service companies are also realizing that they must be on the cutting edge to attract clients, and that means being savvy when it comes to social media. In order to keep up with the flow of technology, one might say that if you aren’t already using a form of social-media marketing, you’re already behind.

Social media is not just a phase. Even if it is, it’s not likely to fade away any time soon—at least not until something better comes along!

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24 Comments

  1. Nice overview, but lacking a few biggies. WordPress being the biggest omission.

  2. Ha Ha 550 BC – 2011….
    Interesting information.. Thanks for shearing

  3. Nice thanks for sharing

  4. Thanks for the information

  5. good post. thanks for sharing…

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing. Great for people to know who started it all and how Social Media has evolved.

    Regards,
    Jonathan

  7. WordPress Blogs have become a staple in website development and absolutely needed for content rich and ever growing sites. Theme’s and theme development is an excellent way to gain control of your WP integration.

  8. Wow…I am bowled by your level of knowledge. I am so impressed. I think you have got a deep insight into this topic. Could not think on those lines ever…I think you are gifted…keep going. Thumbs up!

  9. Interesting read, thanks for this.

  10. Nice information about social media. you added some useful points about social media and how they are developing day by day.

  11. I remember the days of the IRC internet craze, though I never personally participated. Man, we’ve come a long way and who knows what we will have in the future?

  12. Nice informative post.Social media is realy develop time by time.Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks for this great piece of article.

  14. WordPress is also very good, and thank you for your article,I think it is overall.

  15. It really is a good article, thank you for sharing.

  16. A large no of social media is available.But facebook is my favourite.

  17. Love this! I would be awesome to see on the new Facebook Timeline! Social media coming highlighting its self…interesting.

    Cheers!

  18. A large no of social media is available.But facebook is my favourite.

  19. Very nice.I bokmarked this post.
    Great list of development of internet around the world

  20. I came here looking for information on ImaHima. Found nothing. You skip the first mobile social network in a “history”, but include the telegraph. Really?

    This ruins the credibility of your article and really should be corrected.

  21. Just dropping a note because I like what’s going on here. Keep it up.

  22. Great resource of social media history. I would add WordPress as well as the ever evolving start up community expanding on what was considered innovative. The future of social media and networking is fast evolving into mobile and social proof.

    I am excited to be apart of this evolution of connecting with the world in a new a bold way.

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