Monday, March 11, 2019

The Emergence of Social Media in the World Today

Social media has taken up an essential part of most people's time.  Used to find old friends, or even
family, catch up on current events, and it even entertains us.

Worldwide, social media is used by 2.6 billion users.  Way back in 2005, this wasn't always the case, the world hadn't quite caught on to what it was.

Taking  a deeper look into the turbulent history of social media will help us better understand how the world has drastically changed, and is still changing around us.

The Definition of Social Media

What exactly do we mean when we put the words social and media together?  A quick Google search reveals the following definition of social media:

Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

From the above definition two things are projected from this definition:

1. Social media is a form of online communication, or without the internet there would be no social media.

2. Social media survives on content generated by it's users.  Only social networking sites and not usual blogs are included in social media. 

Social media can come under the umbrella of various platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and even Gmail.  There are many more websites that offer social networking, once you start delving into how users connect around the world on social media.

A Peek at How Social Media Started

History likes to look at the start of social media, starting at Samuel Morse's first telegraph in the 19th century.  This was sent in 1844 between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

By the original definition of social media, this form of communication doesn't make the grade as a form of communication.  The telegram wasn't part of a larger community or collective, and the communication didn't take place online.  Social media really starts in the 70s at the birth of the internet.

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The Expansion of the Internet

Roots were formed in the 60s and 70s when public and private organisations wanted a way to communicate with each other.  It wasn't until the 1980s when personal computers became a part of everyday life that the stage was set for social media.

The ushering in of blogging platforms by the 1990s really kicked off the age of social media.  Once upon a time it seemed strange that anyone would be able to log on to the internet and tell the world about what they were feeling, doing or even thinking that day.  This enabled people to understand and see the significance of where they internet was going.

Early Social Media Sites

The first two social media sites, by using the definition above, were Six Degrees and Friendstar, which no longer exist, even though they played an integral part in starting the social media revolution.

Six Degrees

Regarded as the first social media site, the Six Degrees website stated that everyone in the world was connected by no more than six degrees of separation.  Linked to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon theory, which is totally irrelevant to the phenomenon.

Six Degrees was one of the founding pioneers of social media because it allowed people to create individual profiles and add friends to their network.  Launched in 1997 and peaked at around 3.5 million users.  Was bought out by Youthstream Media Networks in 1999 for a cool $125 million, but sadly closed down in 2001.


Friendster emerged in 2002, not unlike Six Degrees, allowing its users to save and make contacts as part of their networks.  Friendster allowed its users to share videos, messages, and photos with other users.  Enabling them to comment on other users profiles, as long as they were in the same network.

Friendster steadily grew, reaching over one hundred million.  By 2011 Friendster was rebranded as a social gaming site.  Keeping it relevant alongside it's main competitors like Yahoo and Google.

Unfortunately it was doomed to fail.  By 2015 all of its services were suspended, and by January of this year, 2019, it shut it's doors completely.

The Start of LinkedIn

Founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue and Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Jean-Luc Valliant.  LinkedIn was one of the first ever social media sites.  Originally setup for professional people, enabling them to connect with old school contacts, and businesses.  This is still LinkedIn's sole purpose.  Ranking number #285 on the Alexa Ranking, and with more than 575 million registered users, it's still one of the most visited sites online today.

The Creation of MySpace

One of the most popular and influential websites online, MySpace was launched in 2003, and quickly rose in the ranks to be one of the largest social media sites in the world.  Starting as a file storage platform, quickly transitioning into a social network, which gave rise to its huge popularity.

In 2005 many larger companies became interested in buying it, resulting in its sale to Rupert Murdoch, for $580 million.  Not long after, MySpace exceeded Google as the most visited website in the world.

The Fall of MySpace

MySpace was making around $800 million in revenue, but competitor Facebook started to expand its primary audience from college students to anyone, giving it universal appeal.  Myspace quickly went into decline by 2008, and was replaced by Facebook as the most visited website.

Many say that the on-site ads that generated revenue for MySpace were its downfall, these ads overloaded the website, and put many of its users off using it.

Bought out by Time Inc., and then again by the Meredith Corporation, it ranks #4,153 on the Alexa Ranking.

The Birth of Facebook

Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollom, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes in 2004.  Created specifically as a social media site for Harvard students, quickly spreading across the Ivy League campuses.  Became available to anyone over the age of 13 in 2006. 

Rapidly growing and outstripping MySpace in 2008, ranked #3 on Alexa, quickly following Google and YouTube.

Going public in 2012 with a valuation of $104 billion, one of the highest IPO valuation ever.  Generating a cool $40 billion a year in revenue, and thought to be one of the most important tech companies in the world to date.

With over 2.3 billion active users, growing consistently since its launch.  Reaches just under 30 percent of the world's population.

The Beginning of Twitter

Started by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in 2006.  Limits its users to only 140 characters per tweet, a policy that only ended in 2017, its character limits were doubled, and all languages except Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  Was valued at $14.2 billion and went public in 2013.  Currently has 335 million active users worldwide.

The Start of Instagram

Launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.  Focusing mainly on videos, photos, and Instagram, grew quickly afters its launch.  Exceeding one million users in just two months.  There are currently 1 billion active users, making it the sixth most popular social media site in the world today.  Bought out by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.

The Rise of Snapchat

Started by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown in 2011.  With a distinctive feature of allowing users to send photos, that would quickly disappear after opening.

Snapchat offers its users the chance to post videos, photos, and stories, and save them for one day. With around 186 million users, very popular among young people.

Social Media in the Current Climate

Social media's history is pretty short, making it no more exciting or influential.  It does, however, play an integral part in the lives of most people around the world.  With a swiftly growing audience, is set to reach over 3 billion users by 2021.

Currently dominated by a small handful of companies, history teaches us that times change.  New technologies are being discovered, and peoples tastes change.  Leaving a landscape of new and emerging platforms for the next generation of users.

Let me know of your experience of social media in the comments below.