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The History of Social Media Evolution on the Internet

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Social networking platforms have grown tremendously over the last few years in numbers of users and in their features. Innovations in technology and increased availability of broadband have made social media more accessible and appealing to growing populations. The roots of social media are much older, though, tracing back to the early days of the advent of the Internet. As long as the Internet has been operating, people have been using it to reach out to others and make virtual connections.

The birth of the Internet occurred in 1969 with the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, known as ARPANET, and its first connection between UCLA and Stanford. ARPANET was funded by the US Department of Defense’s DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for a variety of projects conducted at universities and research facilities. More facilities began operating the elementary gateways, linking more and more locations, eventually including a trans-Atlantic connection in 1973. Email accounted for roughly 75% of all traffic at the time, demonstrating the allure of Internet-based communications, all before most of the population had ever heard of Internet providers.

ARPANET

(Courtesy of Ron Cogswell)

Bulletin board systems emerging in 1978 further demonstrated the human tendency to establish social connections. Usenet, the infamous communication system of newsgroups, rose to relative prominence in 1979 and 1980 and brought with it the concepts of flame wars, trolling and Internet jargon. This is one of the earliest and most vivid illustrations of the ways in which online social communities develop their own cultures and social conventions. Spam also originated in this era when an early ARPANET user was the first to capitalize on this new way to reach potential customers. While many recipients reacted negatively, some sales were generated from the spam, unfortunately establishing the effectiveness of the strategy.

Not deterred by unsolicited intrusions, virtual communities continued to arise, WELL being one of the most prominent. While Earth Electronic Link, one of the first virtual communities, came about in 1985 and is still in existence today as part of Salon Media. 1988 brought IRC, internet relay chat, another strong indication of the human desire to connect with other people. 1989 introduced the world to the World Wide Web and to AOL, one of the first Internet providers.

The 1990s ushered in a number of innovations that were exciting to Internet communities at the time. The earliest versions of web pages and webcams emerged in 1991, as did the adoption of mp3 as a standard audio file. Geocities surfaced in 1997, providing a platform for individuals and businesses to operate their own websites within Geocities’ virtual communities. Also debuting in 1997 were AOL’s Instant Messaging and Sixdegrees, a social networking service that introduced the concepts of friends in social networking communities. This era’s advances would prove to be foundational to social media platforms and activities down the road.

Social Media Archetypes

(Courtesy of mattiasostmar)

The 2000s brought an even bigger burst of growth in social networking platforms. Friendster opened its virtual doors in 2002, followed quickly in 2003 by Myspace, originally a Friendster clone. 2003 also brought the world Skype and Linkedin, representing the vast potential of VoIP and business networking respectively.

2004’s opening of Facebook represented one of the most well-known events in social media history. It was the year the term social media was accepted into mainstream consciousness and would eventually inspire a Hollywood movie. Equally embedded into pop culture’s awareness now is Twitter, born in 2006 and credited with facilitating monumental social change across the world. 2007 gave the world the iPhone, which is also now etched into cultural consciousness. It launched a fervent and more lasting interest in mobile Internet activities, a great many of them with a social element. New options for Internet-based social interactions continue to arise, the recent launch of Google+ being one of them.
Analytics have changed over time to keep pace with the innovations in online community platforms. Marketing analysis has evolved to take advantage of the constantly growing reach of social media. Website statistics have expanded from simple analysis of Internet user behavior to contemporary analysis that includes social analytics. By 2010, even URL shortening services such as bit.ly were providing analytics, to help individuals and businesses track link distribution.

Over the years, people have demonstrated a strong desire to utilize the Internet to connect with others, to be social and find others with whom to relate and share interests. Businesses have studied these wishes and adapted to them, to tap into social networking tendencies as a way to find and cultivate customers, just as customers find and cultivate relationships amongst one another. Whatever the future of Internet-based communication holds, it is assured that social media elements will remain significant.

This is a guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find internet providers in your area and compare prices on different deals for your mobile broadband needs.

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