A brief look at the history and rise of social networks. By Miles Walker
The internet has given us the ability to connect with people from around the globe with a fews clicks of a button, making it easier than ever to keep in touch with our friends and family. Because of that, social networking is the biggest industry of our time, but it wasn’t always that way.
Social networking began in 1978 with the Bulletin Board System (or BBS.) The BBS was hosted on personal computers, requiring that users dial in through the modem of the host computer, exchanging information over phone lines with other users. This was the first system that allowed users to sign in and interact with each other, although it was quite slow since only one user could be logged in at a time.
Later in the year, the very first copies of web browsers were distributed using the bulletin board Usenet. Usenet was created by Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott, and it allowed users to post news articles or posts, which were referred to as “news”. The difference between Usenet and other BBS and forums was that it didn’t have a dedicated administrator or central server. There are modern forums that use the same idea as Usenet today, including Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups.
The first version of instant messaging came about in 1988 with Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC was Unix-based, limiting access to most people. It was used for link and file sharing, and generally keeping in touch with one another.
Geocities was among the first social networking sites on the internet, launching its website in 1994. Its intent was to allow users to create their own websites, dividing them into “cities” based on the website’s content. In 1995, TheGlobe.com was launched, offering users the ability to interact with people who held the same interests and publish their own content.
Two years later, in 1997, AOL Instant Messenger and SixDegrees.com were launched. This was the year instant messaging became popular and it was the first time internet users were able to create a profile and friend each other.
Friendster was the pioneer of social networking. In it’s first three months, the social networking website acquired 3 million users, amounting to 1 in 126 internet users being members at the time. Friendster served as the launching point for the widely popular MySpace, who cloned Friendster and launched after just 10 days of coding.
In the following years, other social networking websites like Classmates.com, LinkedIn and Tribe.net started to pop up, including what was to be the most popular social networking website in internet history.
Facebook.com was launched in 2004 with the intent to connect U.S. college students, starting with Harvard College. In it’s first month, over half of the 19,500 students signed up. After gaining popularity, Facebook opened it’s registration to non-college students, and in 2008, Facebook surpassed MySpace as the leading social networking website.
Social networking has come a long way since 1978, and we will all witness its evolution for years to come, forever changing the way people connect with one another.