Today, news spreads faster through Twitter and Facebook than it does via traditional news channels. This surely begs the question, when did social media become such an integral part of our lives? Let’s turn back the time and take a look at the evolution of social media.
- Usernet: One of the oldest computer network communication systems. Developed in 1979 and largely used to post messages to various categories, known as “newsgroups”. Today, Google and Yahoo groups utilize the basic technology established by the Usernet system in 1980’s.
- BBS (Bulletin Board System): A computer system running software that enabled users to log in to the system and interact with other users. Developed in 1978, BBS was widely used to share illegal material and is the predecessor of today’s P2P sites.
- IRC and ICQ: Known as the father of Instant Messaging, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was developed in 1988 and was mostly UNIX based. ICQ was the first Instant Messaging program for PC’s and the first program to adopt avatars, emoticons and abbreviations such as “LOL”, “BRB”, etc..
- Six Degrees: Launched in 1997 and was the first modern social network. It allowed users to create a profile and befriend other users online.
- AsianAvenue, MiGente, BlackPlanet: These sites cropped up between 1997 and 2001, following the launch of Six Degrees. Users could create professional, personal and dating profiles and add other users, generally without approval.
- LiveJournal: Launched in 1999, it took a different approach to social networking – while Six Degrees allowed users to create a static profile, LiveJournal was a social network built around constantly updated blogs. LiveJournal encouraged its users to “follow” one another and create groups, flourishing interaction. It was the precursor to the live updates we see in social networks today.
It’s clear that the use and development of Social Media took off in late the 90’s and has completely revolutionized the way we connect and interact with one another. Today, majority of us start the day logging onto Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to check on our friends, colleagues and get up to the minute news from all parts of the world. Arguably, these are the three dominant players in the social media game, but here’s a comprehensive list of categories:
- Blogs — Yes, even blog is a type of social media. The most popular free blogging platforms are WordPress, TypePad, and Blogger
- Comment Communities — Blog commentators now have their own social media sites – a great example is Disqus
- Curation Sites – These sites act as curators of content created by users. Examples: Pinterest, Storify, Paper.li
- Social Networking Sites — These sites help people to keep in contact with friends, family and loved ones. Examples: Facebook, MySpace, Friendster
- Social News — Users can submit and vote on news stories. Examples: Digg, PopURLs
- Social Measuring — Measure the quality of submitted content. Examples: Technorati, BlogPulse
- Microblogging – Content is delivered in short bursts of information. Example: Twitter
- Social Bookmarking — Allows users to share, organize, search bookmarks of web resources. Examples: Delicious
- Social Q&A – Users can ask and answer questions. Examples: Answers.com, Yahoo! Answers
- Video Sharing — Users can upload and comment on videos. Examples: YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, Veetle
- Photo Sharing — Users can upload and comment on photos. Some photo-sharing sites offer a user license agreement that allows bloggers and website owners to use images. Examples: Flickr, PhotoBucket
- Social Search — Some search engines have evolved beyond providing search results into to social media communities where users can create profiles and interact through email groups. Examples: Google, Yahoo!
- Professional Networks — These sites allows business professionals to build professional contacts, recommend one another, share information about industry-related events, post resumes, etc.. Examples: LinkedIn, Plaxo
- Niche Communities — Users can create their own social media on any topic. Example: Ning
- Blog Networks – Similar to niche communities, blog networks are usually a large collection of blogs. Many blog networks provide exclusive content and require approval for bloggers to join. Examples: Gawker, b5Media, 9Rules
- Presentation-Sharing Sites — Presentation and document sharing has become easier with sites like SlideShare and Scribd
- Content-Driven Communities — The largest and most recognized: Wikipedia
- Product-Based Communities — Sites that started as a means of buying and selling products online have incorporated the community aspect into their sites. The biggest sites in this type of social media are Ebay and Amazon.
- Review & Recommendation Sites — You can review almost anything in an online community-based setting. Twitter asks “What are you doing?”, but Shelfari (and other book review communities) asks “What are you reading?”. Examples: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Flixster
There is no question that technology will continue to evolve beyond our imagination – better and faster wireless networks, combination of tablets and phones, development of the applications on the various platforms, further integration of online activities, and the list goes on. The question is:
When will the evolution of social media end and what will be the cause?