A brief history of social networks

July 24, 2018
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Talking about the history of social networks may seem a bit far-fetched at first since they look like a relatively new phenomenon. However, in a few decades, the evolution of social networks has been such that they have modified the lifestyle of the 21st century.

In fact, as indicated in the report “Digital in 2016” by We Are Social, today 31% of the world’s population are active users of social networks, which means the impressive number of 2,307 billion people. And a fact that is even more interesting to know the evolution of this phenomenon is that active users of social networks in mobile environments are already on the 27%.

There is no explicit agreement about the exact year in which we can talk about the beginning of the implementation of social networks. However, it can be noted that social tools, with the characteristics that we know today, began to appear in the 90s. However, the first signs of social networks go back to previous years.

When did social networks emerge?

The first seed of what could be considered as a social network was planted several decades ago. In 1971 the first sending of an email was made through two computers that were side by side. It was done by Ray Tomlinson.

Later, in 1978, BBS (Bulletin Board System) was exchanged through telephone lines with other users. Also, the first copies of Internet browsers were distributed during the same year through the Usenet platform.

However, it was until 1991 that Tim Berners Lee invents the HTML language, one of the essential elements to make web browsing accessible and straightforward.

From Geocities to the dotcom bubble

Years later, in 1994, what could be considered one of the first social networks, GeoCities, was launched for the first time. However, the original idea of ​​this space, which later had its clone in Tripod and Spain in Ciudad Futura, Demasiado.com, and Galeón, which is still active, was a service for creating simple web pages that lodged in certain neighborhoods according to their content.

A year later, in 1995, TheGlobe.com came to light. This social network provided the opportunity for its users to personalize their own online experiences by publishing their content and interacting with other people who had similar interests. That same year Classmates appeared, a website that helped people find their former classmates and work.

Two years later it was time for SixDegrees. A space that some researchers consider as the first social network. Or at least the one that best reflects the definition of social networks. In fact, SixDegrees offered the possibility of creating personal profiles, inviting friends or visiting the profiles of other users. However, all these social networks were far from becoming relevant spaces on the Internet in an era dominated by directories such as Yahoo or search engines such as Altavista.

On the other hand, it was the year 1997 when Instant Messenger was launched for the first time. An instant messaging program created by Microsoft Windows with which users could find the most basic chat services and contact list. He can be considered the precursor of one of the most influential social networks currently, the WhatsApp instant messaging service.

The downturn of many technology companies that had developed under the protection of the economic bonanza that was closed with the pinch of the dotcom bubble made it look like it was going to break the growth dynamics of the internet. However, it caused the appearance of new startups that were going to be part of the history of social networks.

The 2.0 Explosion in the new century

Already entering the 21st century, more precisely in the year 2002, Friendster was launched for the first time with an apparent objective: to meet new people from different circles of friends. This fact established a greater confidence between the users since they were known of their own friends. Friendster proved to be a very successful formula and reached three million users in the first months of its appearance.

A year later, in 2003, the social network that would lead to a new stage was inaugurated: My Space. This new social network was more interactive than those that had arisen until now. In MySpace you could manage from personal profiles to hosting services for photos, comments or followers, all intensely focused initially on music groups.

In countries like the United States, many indie bands used My Space to share their work, contacting directly and continuously with their fans. The social network soon understood that it had great opportunities in this regard and encouraged these practices, offering artists space where they could promote themselves.

My Space spread mainly in the United States, but in other countries, other services also began to appear with great success such as Orkut, one of the first social network attempts that Google created, in Brazil, Hyves in Holland or Mixi in Japan. Even so, the first social network that had figures of gigantic users was MySpace although its case is a clear example of how a tool of this type can go from being the queen of the dance to almost disappearing. Such learning for many in the history of social networks.

Facebook has more than 1.600 millions of users

The advent of social networks such as LinkedIn or Flickr and spaces such as Digg, WordPress or YouTube predicted a seismic on the Internet that was known until then.

Yes. In 2004 one of the most extensive social networks was created so far, Facebook. This new social network did not take long to overcome My Space as a leader regarding monthly visitors. Such was its success that My Space had to modify its strategy and finally established a new design presenting itself as an entertainment platform and not a social network.

Facebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg, originated initially with the goal of connecting the university students of Harvard. In fact, more than half of the students of the university subscribed in its first month of operation. A year after its launch, Facebook already had a presence in some 500 American universities with more than 2 million users.

In 2006 Facebook became a service open to the public. What radically changed the history of social networks. The companies also saw the great opportunity that this new service offered to advertise and get closer to their audience.

Currently, this social network is recognized as one of the most important of all time. In fact, it is still the social network with the highest number of users: 1,650 million active monthly users, as of April 27, 2016. And growing.

Twitter, a new way of making revolution

Two years later, in 2006, Twitter was born. A spin-off of Odeo, the business adventure in which the creators of Blogger had embarked after their purchase by Google. Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone created a tool that was born as an internal messaging system to give news but that changed the way in which television is watched or, even, the revolutions are managed.

Twitter’s limits, 140 characters since they followed SMS communications, made great the idea of a ​​microblogging network. Today there is no world-class event that is not tweeted. A milestone in the history of social networks.

In recent years, more and more social networks have been appearing that are popularized in niche audiences with different characteristics. Some of the social networks of the last five years are:

  • Pinterest. It is a platform to share images among users. They are organized around personal boards by subjects where they collect images according to different events or hobbies.
  • Tumblr. It is a microblogging platform that allows users to publish texts, videos, images, links or quotes.
  • Youtube. A website where users can upload and share content in the form of video. It hosts millions of music videos as well as television or videoblogs.
  • LinkedIn. It is a more specialized social network aimed at companies and businesses. Each user can create a profile where they freely expose their work experience and qualities. In this way, the social network puts millions of professionals in contact with each other.
  • Snapchat. This mobile application allows you to send files like images or videos that disappear from the recipient’s mobile device within one to ten seconds after viewing it. All content is submitted through private messages.

Google deserves to be mentioned due to its attempts to create an appropriate social network. Apart from YouTube, Google tried to create a social network with Google Buzz that had little success. Later, he launched Orkut, which was only moderately successful in Brazil and ended up trying it with Google+, a social network that has already seen several modifications and doesn’t take off.

The development of social networks has been impressive in a few years. The history of social networks is still in an incipient phase and has already caused thousands of changes in the world. In fact, social networks have completely changed the way people relate to each other. Communication is immediate both in personal and professional life.

Something that is accentuated in the new stage of the history of social networks that has begun to be written: mobile social networks where applications such as WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat begin to overshadow the giants of social networks.

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