Follow Me: A Brief Exploration of the Evolution of Social Media Platforms

Social Media Platforms

Getting Social Online

Over the last decade, social media has become increasingly popular with both the number of platforms available and people using these platforms. As of right now, Facebook is the biggest social media platform and one of the longest-running platforms in the modern era.

However, social media (or social platforms) have been around much longer than Facebook has, and some have even been around longer than the internet itself. This may seem impossible today since we can’t access any of our favorite sites without some sort of internet connection, but that’s what makes the history of social platforms so interesting.

The 1970s: Talkomatic and the Seeds of Greatness

In 1973, Douglas Brown and Dave Wooly created a computer program called Talkomatic, a chat room that allowed users to chat using their computers. This is similar to what would later be seen in the ‘90s, but this was an incredible invention, as not many people owned computers back in the ‘70s. Only those who were really into technology (and wealthy) and college students had access to computers the way the majority of people do today. Those who were able to use Talkomatic enjoyed sending messages to each other in real-time, though the messages were transmitted one letter at a time.

The 1980s: The Dawn of Usenet

Technically created in 1979 (but widely used throughout the ‘80s), Usenet made its first appearance at Duke University in North Carolina. Its creators Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott successfully created a way for students to send information back and forth using their computers. This was much more efficient than Talkomatic, with Usenet being used on a variety of campuses all over the United States. Usenet was similar to today’s discussion forums, but they’re called newsgroups on Usenet. Newsgroups were labeled after academic topics for students to go in and chat about school-related topics.

Arguably the most exciting thing about Usenet is that it is one of the few early applications in use today that originated before the world wide web. Today you can access over 100,000 newsgroups on any topic you can imagine. Usenet has also upgraded from text-only posts to allow users to search, share, and securely download videos, pictures, and audio files.

The 1990s: Chat Rooms and the World Wide Web

The ‘90s continued the chat room trend with sites like AOL and MSN. With the boom of the internet and more people getting access to computers, there was a shift from the old platforms of Talkomatic and Usenet to website-based chat rooms. The ‘90s chat rooms offered more, such as voice chats and simultaneous interactions.

The creation of email also seemed to have more and more people hooked on the world wide web where they were always able to chat with friends. The ‘90s also saw what is considered to truly be the first social media platform, SixDegrees, because it allowed users to sign-up with an email address, create a unique profile, and add friends.

The 2000s: The Net We Know Today

The early 2000s saw a huge influx of social media sites that were similar to 1997’s SixDegrees, which eventually shut down in 2001. Some platforms that originated back in the 2000s that we still use today include Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), Reddit (2005), and Twitter (2006). Other popular platforms created during this era, but aren’t as popular include Firendster (2002) and MySpace (2003). It’s also worthy to note that internet browsers have also changed drastically over the years, with browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer (replaced with Microsoft Edge) no longer in existence.

In the last decade, we’ve seen sites such as Pinterest (2010), Instagram (2010), Snapchat (2011), Discord (2015), and TikTok (2017) come on to the scene. Now, social media is a powerful tool for businesses and a lucrative business for several content creators. It’s amazing how far social media has come since the first computer-based chat rooms. It will be even more amazing to see where it takes us in the next decade.


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