Social Media: How It Came About

On 03.12.2015, by

Social Media How It Came About

Imagine a life without social media. Imagine how difficult and expensive it must have been to keep in touch with family and friends. Imagine how difficult it would be to relay news and information to all parts of the globe.

Social media has become an integral part of every person’s life. Social media are the networks that allow you to stay connected to other people. Without it, your real interaction with other people would have to depend on costly long distance calls, SMS and snail mails.

So how it all did begin? How did it evolve?

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Coining of the Term Social Media

social media evolution

Social Media has a rather colorful history starting from the fact that even the naming of it is being contested by 3 pioneers of the web industry- CEO Tina Sharkey of BabyCenter.com who was an ex-executive of AOL and iVillage. When she was interviewed by Jeff Bercovici, she said, “Well, it’s not like service media, and it’s not quite informational media — it’s social media! It wasn’t media we were creating — it was media we were facilitating.”

She also owned the domain – socialmedia.com, which she registered only in 1999 for $9.95 though there were no evidence that she used that term publicly before. The term ‘social media’ was first heard from another AOL executive named Ted Leonsis who was quoted that there was a need to give users “social media, places where they can be entertained, communicate, and participate in a social environment.”

According to him, the term probably came from AOL during the early parts of 1990s when he and founder Steve Case started developing what was to become the AOL Instant Messenger. For them, social media was what they wanted AOL to be – “a mash-up of technology and communications and media itself.”

There’s another guy though who’s joining the fray. A photographer/writer/social media researcher & strategist/hacker by the name of Darrell Berry said he began using the term in 1994 when he was developing Matisse, an online media environment.

In the following year he wrote a paper about social media spaces which were about the evolution of the internet from a static archive of documents to user engagement networks. According to Berry, “I have no recollection of having seen that expression prior to that, apart from myself and a couple of friends. We were fairly cut off from the mainstream; I think we developed the thought in isolation.”

As the Internet has not been widely used nor developed during that time, the validity of each of their claims is still questionable.

The Era before the 20th Century

The use of social media can be traced as far as the 19th century. Letters delivered from person to person (often by messengers) was the sole means of communication. The first use of postal service could be traced back to 550 B.C.

It was in 1792 when a faster means of communication was invented – the telegraph/telegram that would only allow short notes. In 1865, the pneumatic post was invented though its popularity nowadays does not go beyond drive through banking.

The invention of the telephone in the year 1890 and radio the following year has made it possible for people at that time to receive instant communication from great distance.

The 20TH Century

social media interaction

Bulletin Board System or BBS – originated in the late 1970s. These were hosted by personal computers and those who wish to access it must dial in the host computer’s modem. This is quite limiting as it only allows one user to access BBS at a time.

Usenet– This was developed in 1979 by Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott that allows users to post articles to newsgroups. Usenet did not have dedicated servers like BBS.  Usenet can be likened to RSS feeds used in blogs. Many of the original Usenet systems have been adapted by group sites like Yahoo and Google.

Compuserve– a mainframe computer communication solution that allowed its members to access news and share files. It also allowed for true interaction among its members.

It also granted widespread access to email though this was not a new concept. Members can join as many discussion forums as they want so they can interact with as many people as possible.

Prodigy– a pre-internet online service that gives members access to a wide range of topics from weather to shopping. They claimed to be the first consumer online service that users can get for a fee. For awhile it competed with Compuserve as the biggest online service provider.

The death of Prodigy could be attributed to the fact that it did not anticipate that its members would prefer interaction over their passive kind of services.

They were ill-equipped to handle the demands of their subscribers. They took to censoring to limit their member’s activities hence its downfall.

Genie– otherwise known as General Electric Network for Information Exchange is an online service by General Electric Business. It ran for 14 years, and it offered many different online services such as online shopping and games. It became widely popular because of their multiplayer games that can be had at a lower cost.

AOL or America Online

Remember Tom Hank’s movie, You’ve Got Mail? Well, it promoted AOL. America Online is more than just an internet service provider. AOL was the Internet before mainstream internet happened.  It has member’s based communities where they could create profiles.

They are still very much around and through the years they have acquired other companies like CompuServe, IRQ,  Moviefone, Netscape and Huffington Post just to name a few.

The Birth of Social Media Platforms

Six Degrees- widely referred to as the first social network aptly named because of its concept that allowed users to list family members and friends. They can send invites to other people to join the site. It was launched in 1997 with about 3.5 million subscribers but was sold two years later for a whopping $125 million.

The Social Media Platform Explosion in the 21st Century

social media globe

Friendster– it had more than 100 million registered users during its peak. It was founded in 2002 and finally closed its doors this year. It died simply because it failed to stay competitive with what other social media networks were offering.

MySpace– it was the largest social networking site from 2005 to 2008. It was the most visited website in 2006. It catered to the younger demographics with key features like music and music videos.

LinkedIn– was founded in 2003 and 12 years later it has the bragging rights as the network of choice among professionals. What makes it different from other social networks is that it has a more serious approach when it comes to networking.

People do not go to LinkedIn looking to reconnect with old classmates or cyber romances. People are in LinkedIn to look for connections with other business peoples and professionals. It’s the best community for B2B and B2C.

Facebook– is the biggest social network of all time with 1.55 billion monthly active users. It was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and company initially as a Harvard-only networking site for two years before going public in 2006.

It is easy to use, have many features and can be used in conjunction with many 3rd party applications. Best of all, it stayed relevant by ensuring periodic updates to ensure users stay contented to be on Facebook.

Twitter– is another social media network that’s predicted to stay for a long time. Though it’s not as popular as Facebook, it still enjoys the role as one of the essential platforms every business owners and marketers must have.

Just like Facebook, they use open API that makes it really easy to integrate with 3rd party apps and tools.

Wrapping It Up

There are too many social media networks and platforms to mention. Some have come and gone. Others continue to serve a purpose. YouTube is a video sharing channel where users can upload and watch videos. They can interact with other users through the comments section.

Google Plus is an interest based social network by Google. It is just one of the many properties of Google which included Gmail, HangOut, Drive and even YouTube. Instagram is a 3-in-1 platform as it allows photo sharing, video sharing and social networking. Skype is an application that allows video chatting and voice calling.

Pinterest is a visual bulletin board service that allows the more visually stimulated individuals to pin as many pictures as they want. What’s App is an instant messaging service.

Periscope is a video streaming service while Stumble Upon is a social networking site that helps people discover new and interesting things on the internet. There are still so many other social media platforms out there.

Social Media has made it possible to stay connected with other people no matter where their location might be. Privacy issues and concerns though are making people hesitant in divulging personal information what with so many incidents of hacking. People though are still using it to gather information and connect with people.

Social media has really evolved over the years and some of these platforms are in it for the long haul. You don’t have to create an account for each of these networks, just choose a few that you think are worth having.

the world before socialmedia
 

2 comments

  1. Don Purdum says:

    Hi Gracielle,

    It’s interesting when you think back on history that “social media” as a concept isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s just an evolved one that has allowed communications and networks to grow at an advanced rate.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    ~ Don Purdum

    1. Gracielle says:

      Hi, Don. Thank you for the comment! Indeed social media as a concept has evolved over the years and it’s still evolving. One can only wonder how the social space will look in a few years, considering the growth speed and adoption of these networks.

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