The History Of Social Media Sites: A Journey of Social Life

The term Social networking can be described in simple words as “web-based sites that allow people to interact with each other who share similar personal or career interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections”.

Most people know Social Networking sites from twitter or Facebook. But Social Networking has a very long history. So, let’s dive deeper to know from where the idea of Social Networking comes.

The History of Social Media Sites

Social Networking before 2000

Early social networking started in 1994, as Geocities. It was a web hosting service site. The users can store their webpages in “cities” which were assigned names after real cities or religion according to the content. For example, computer-related pages are stored in “Silionvalley”, entertainment-related pages stored in “Hollywood”.

geocities, history of social media

Similar to Geocities, launched in 1995 offered services like blogging, photo album manager, site building apart from web hosting. In the same year, brought people to interact with each other via chatrooms. While the classroom took a different approach by simply having people link to each other via email addresses.

PlanetAll launched in 1996 was probably the first social networking site. It had more than 10,000 groups organized around academic institutions and employers. The service included calendaring and address book. It also worked with the user’s contact’s travel plans. The site would notify users when they cross paths with their contacts.

PlanetAll history of social networking sites

SixDegrees developed in 1997, was the first site to implement a web of contacts model. It allowed users to list friends and family members and also invite external contacts to join the site. SixDegrees was one of the first social networking sites of the general form that is in widespread use today. 

SixDegrees evolution of social media sites

In the late 1990s, user profiles became a central feature of social networking sites. Allowing users to compile lists of friends and search for other users with similar interests. One of them was The Open Diary launched in 1997. Open Diary, an online diary has hosted more than five million diaries since it was founded. Including diaries from 77 different countries and all 7 continents. It had key features like the reader’s comments and friends - only privacy.

The Open Diary website in 1999 | Web design, Online diary, Design museum, evolution of social networking sites

There were many more websites for social networking. Which are :

Usenet1980Read and post messages to one or
more newsgroups
Prodigy1984News, weather, shopping, bulletin boards, games, polls, expert columns, banking, stocks, travel
LISTSREV1986Mailing service
(bulletin board service)
1990Uploading and downloading data, reading news
and bulletins, sending messages via public
message board or direct chatting
(America Online)
1991Web portal, e-mail, instant messaging
MIxi1999Send and receive messages, write a diary,
read and write comments on other's diaries,
organize and join communities, invite friends
Makeoutclub2000User profile pages, image galleries, message boards,
blogs, private mail, private galleries, and "crush-lists" 

Social Networking after 2000

After the invention of blogging, social media began to explode in popularity. Friendster launched in 2002, was based on the “Circle of Friends” social network technique for networking individuals in virtual communities and demonstrates the small world fact.

The service allowed users to contact other members, maintain those contacts, and share online content and media with those contacts. The website was also used for dating and discovering new events, bands, and hobbies. Users could share videos, photos, messages, and comments with other members via profiles and networks.

friendster, history of social media timeline

After a year a website appeared that changed equations of social networking. MySpace Created in 2003, became a hub for musicians and music fans on the web. Until 2008, it was the internet’s most popular social media platform reaching more than 100 million users. It was the first social network to reach a global audience. It played a critical role in the early growth of companies like YouTube.

MySpace history of social media

Launched in the same year LinkedIn has become actually the platform for all business professionals on the planet. Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn emphasizes a user’s professional connections. Users can create profile pages that have a structure similar to a resume, in that users can summarize their career, advertise their particular skills, and list their education and employment history.

Connections are formed between users when one accepts an invitation from another to join his or her network. LinkedIn allows users to further their careers by searching for jobs, finding connections at a particular company, and receiving recommendations from other users.

LinkedIn, history of social media

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg created the website ‘TheFacebook” intending to create a universal website that could connect people around Harward University. Initially, it was developed to store student directory featuring photos and basic information of the Harvard University. But by the time It gradually reached most universities in the United States and Canada. The company dropped ‘The’ from its name after purchasing the domain name in 2005.

In the beginning the students can post photographs of themselves and personal information about their lives, such as their class schedules and clubs they belonged to. With the time features like wall - to let user’s friends post infromation on their wall, tagging - to tag friends in photos, posting unlimited images, privacy control in news feed made the Facebook popuar. by 2005 facebook had 6 million users. And the rest is history.

facebook, history of social media

In 2004, the first networking website by Google called Orkut appeared. The service was designed to help users meet new and old friends and maintain existing relationships. Each member could become a fan of any of the friends in their list and also evaluate whether their friend is “Trustworthy”, “Cool”, “Sexy” on a scale of 1 to 3.

Orkut initially allowed anyone to visit everyone’s profile unless a potential visitor was on a person’s “Ignore List”.Each member was also able to customize their profile preferences and restrict the information that appears on their profile from their friends and/or others. Another feature was that any member can add any other member on Orkut to his/her “Crush List”.

orkut history of social media

Two years later, in 2006, Twitter was born. Here users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through its website interface, through SMS, or its mobile-device application software. Today there is no world-class event that is not tweeted. A milestone in the history of social networks.

twitter, history of social media

Instagram, released in 2010 has grown to be one of the most popular social networks for photo sharing that the mobile web has ever seen. It’s the ultimate social network for sharing real-time photos and short videos while on the go. Now it’s even a leading advertising platform for brands as well as Instagram Influencers, who legitimately generate income through the network.

instagram, history of social media

Some of the other social networks that appeared in the first decade of the 21st century are:

Multiply2004Media sharing, emphasized on
privacy and security
Ning2004Create communities and social networks
Yahoo! 360° 2005Create personal web sites, share photos,
maintain blogs and lists, create groups
Reddit2005View news, voting
Tumblr2007Blogging, messaging, Follow users
Kontain2008Follow users through photos, videos, and music
Pinterest2009Collection of images, Follow topics, users
and boards, save pins
Google+2011Photo editing, cloud integration, related hashtags

In recent years, more and more social networks have been appearing that are popularized in niche audiences with different characteristics. We all are familiar with Snapchat, Tiktok, WhatsApp, Youtube, Quora, Wattpad, and many more websites that we use in our daily life.


the history of social media infographic

Apart from websites given here, there are countless popular and unpopular social networking sites available in the World. We tried to help you get to know some of them. If you liked don’t forget to share with your friends and let them know about the history of social media :)

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