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Social Networking History - Part 1

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Submitted by Teo Graca | RSS Feed | Add Comment | Bookmark Me! | IBC print

Social Media Sites grew out of the advancements and practices developed through social networking sites. Some succeeded, many failed, but as ideas were proven successful, these became best practices and were adopted by all. These trial and error processes continue today, but let’s take a look back at the history of social networking and see how our current best practices came into effect.

The first true social networking site was created in 1997 as SixDegrees.com, which allowed users to create profiles, list their Friends and, beginning in 1998, surf the Friends’ lists. Each of these features existed separately in some form before SixDegrees. Profiles existed on most major dating sites and many community sites. AIM and ICQ supported lists of Friends, although those Friends were not visible to others. Classmates.com allowed people to associate themselves with their high school or college alumni and surf the network for others who were also affiliated, but users could not create profiles or list Friends until years later. SixDegrees was the first to combine these features.

SixDegrees was promoted as a tool to help people connect with and send messages to others. While SixDegrees attracted millions of users, it failed to become a sustainable business and, in 2000, closed its doors to the public. SixDegrees was simply ahead of its time. Although people were already flocking to the Internet, the Internet was new and most people did not have extended networks of friends who were also online. Also, there was little to do after accepting Friend requests, and most users were not interested in meeting strangers.

From 1997 to 2001, sites like AsianAvenue, BlackPlanet, and MiGente allowed users to create personal, professional, and dating profiles where users could identify Friends on their personal profiles without seeking approval for them. In 1999, LiveJournal listed one-directional connections on member profile pages as a type of Friends list, similar to the instant messaging buddy lists. LiveJournal allowed people to mark others as Friends and follow their journals and even manage privacy settings, similar to what Twitter does today. The journals were a new idea and this idea is best known today as the Walls feature of FaceBook.

The Korean virtual worlds site Cyworld was launched in 1999 and added limited Social Networking Service (SNS) features in 2001 accessible through cell phones. It was one of the first to develop communities around the idea of a discussion forum tool and has since incorporated support for both interpersonal relations and self-relations. It is worth noting that it was an innovator in the areas of business intelligence (BI) as it applies to SMS practices online and its use of the study of communication behaviors provides to more valuable service to its members.

The Swedish web community LunarStorm branded itself as an SNS in 2000 and contained Friends lists, guest books, and diary pages. Its notable innovation was how it portrayed the idea of “authentic” or “playful” within a scoring system within the site. LunarStorm strongly influenced how people behaved and what they choose to reveal in their profiles. A member’s status was measured by activities such as sending messages. Member activities were used as indicators of authenticity, which raised or lowered each member’s status.

In 2001, Ryze.com became the first business network that people could use to leverage their business connections. It included many future SNS features that have since been adopted by sites like LinkedIn. Its innovation was connecting people through a multilevel system, as in “whom do you know that knows someone else”. In the end, Ryze never acquired mass popularity. Instead, other business networking sites took over. Tribe.net grew to attract a passionate niche member base and LinkedIn became the best-known business connection tool.

Friendster was launched in 2002 as a social complement to Ryze. Like Ryze, Friendster was designed to help friends-of-friends meet. In terms of dating, the assumption that friends-of-friends would make better romantic partners than would strangers with similar interests worked well and the site gained a large number of members quickly. As this growth affected the site stability and as they couldn’t keep up with users, Friendster went by the way side and is considered by some to be one of the greatest disappointments in Internet history.

MySpace was launched in 2003 to compete with sites like Friendster, Xanga, and AsianAvenue. When it was rumored that Friendster would adopt a fee-based system, many users migrated to alternate SNS sites, including Tribe.net and MySpace. One notable group that migrated was indie-bands, and as MySpace was the main beneficiary of this migration and grew rapidly, the SMS site was soon acquired by Rupert Murdoch in July 2005 for $580,000,000 in cash! It now has it’s own record labels and is one, if not the most successful business on the Internet today.

Part 2 covers the major innovations that have come since these early implementations of online social networking.

From Teo's book:

Social Media Marketing and Syndication
The Evolution of Advertising

Copyright 2009 GLI Publishing
All rights reserved

Edition 1.0 eBook

ISBN: 978-1-61623-440-9

Click for Details --> History Part 2 <--

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