Monday, March 31, 2014

The history of social media.

Some time this year, we’ll hit a milestone that will pass without much fanfare – the 10-year anniversary of social media.  The exact dates our modern social media originated are subject to interpretation and debatable, but most give credit to the inception of Facebook in 2004 as a way for college kids at Harvard to interact online.  From there, the timeline of social media follows a few twists (like the dotcom bubble burst in 2000) and dead ends (remember MySpace?), but it never diverged from a meteoric rise as the defining phenomenon of the 21st century.  What will the future for social media hold?  We’ll have to wait and see with baited breath what groundbreaking, fun, and fascinating technologies are around the corner, but if the quickening evolution of social media is any indication we can be sure of one thing – we won’t have to wait long for the next big, revolutionary idea!

CompuServe was the first major commercial public Internet provider in the U.S., founded way back in 1969.  It’s Internet service relied on dial-up modem technology that prevailed through the 1980’s and mid 90’s.

Developer Ray Tomlinson sends the first email, a nonsensical bit of text, “QWERTTYIOP,” between two computers sitting next to each other.

Two Chicago computer enthusiasts come up with the idea for the BBS, bulletin board system to share information, post announcements, and exchange events just like in real life.  Duke University and the University of North Carolina use the BBS to connect.

The Prodigy Internet service was born.  It grew in popularity and by 1990, was the second-largest service provider with 465,000 subscribers (CompuServe had 600,000.)  It was sold many times and later bought by AT&T.

The first domain ever registered is  Now, it stands as a historic site.

AOL, the American Online Service, was introduced.  Who can forget that voice, “You’ve got mail!” when you logged in?!

The seed that was to become the World Wide Web was planted when British engineer Tim Berners-Lee started work at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland.

CERN donates the WWW technology to the world.  More than 200 Web servers quickly came online.  Students at the NCSA, the National Center of Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, displayed the first graphical browser, Mosaic, that showed web pages as we know them today.

More than 1,500 Web servers were online, leading people to call it the Information Superhighway .

Geocities, which let its users create their own web pages based on types of urban areas, was released.  It reached 1,000,000 users by 1997 and it grew to 38 million users by 2009 when it was closed down to U.S. users.

Yahoo opens its search engine and web index platform.

Earthlink started their interest service provider.

The first banner ad is unleashed on, a simple ad promoting 7 art museums and sponsored by AT&T.

Newsweek released an article with the auspicious headline, “The Internet? Bah!  Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and never will be, nirvana.”

The first item sells on eBay (back then it was AuctionWeb) a broken laser pointer for $14.83. sells its first book, Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

By now the Web has over 1,000,000 sites.  Blogging begins, the name coming from a Web Log, or the joking mashup, Blog.

The website lets users create profiles and list their friends, a precursor to modern social networking.

Internet users can chat with AOL Instant Messenger.

Educators and university start Blackboard, an online course management platform.

A tiny search index with a weird name, Google, sets up shop.

Friends Reunited, credited as the first prominent online social network site, is founded in Great Britain as a way to locate past school mates.

The blogging platform, is launched.

Seventy million computers are connected to the Internet.

The bubble bursts, sending the stock market plummeting and investors and techies reevaluating the value and nature of social media innovations.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is started.

Apple starts selling iPods.

The social networking website, Friendster is released to the public in the U.S. and blows up with 3 million users in three months.  

AOL has grown to 34 million members by now.

MySpace starts as a social networking site intended to replicate Friendster.

LinkedIn is established as a social media networking site for professionals and business.

Apple introduces iTunes.

Skype is introduced for the general public.

A college version of Friendster is rolled out for students at Harvard College, called Facebook.

Podcasting begins via the Internet.

Digg, a social news website, and Flickr, an image hosting site, are launched.

Facebook releases a version for high school students.

YouTube begins storing and replaying videos for users.  The first video uploaded was a test video at the San Diego Zoo and has been watched more than 10 million times.

There are more than 8 billion web pages.

Twitter is established as a social networking and microblogging site.  Founder Jack Dorsey sends the first ever Tweet, “Just setting up my twttr.”

Facebook memberships is opened to anyone over 13 years of age,

Google is growing by leaps and bounds, already indexing more than 25 billion web pages, 400 million daily queries, and 1.3 billion images.

Microsoft buys a stake in Facebook.  Facebook adds the capacity for third party applications.

Apple releases the iPhone smart phone.

Facebook passes MySpace for the total number of monthly users.  Facebook tries to acquire Twitter, unsuccessfully.

Facebook is the most populated social network with more than 200 million users.

Microsoft releases Bing as a search engine to compete with Yahoo and Google.

It’s estimated that 25% of the earth’s population uses the Internet, with anywhere from 27-58 billion web pages.

Facebook hits 400 million users while MySpace declines to 57 million.

Apple releases the iPad.

Social media first sees a role in national politics in President Barack Obamas’ campaign and White House administration.

Almost 2 billion people are using the Internet.  It surpasses newspapers as the primary way for Americans to get news.

QR codes are created.

Smartphones and tablets give us access to the Internet and social media everywhere.  Facebook has 550 million users, 65 million Tweets are sent a day, LinkedIn has 90 million professionals, and 2 billion videos are viewed daily on YouTube.

Questions over privacy exhibit growing pains with omniscient social media.

Wordpress, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Wikia grow in popularity.

Advertisers and businesses start using Likes, Tweets, and the like to promote their brands.

Facebook hits 1 billion users.  YouTube has 1 trillion views per year, 70% of which come from outside the U.S.

Twitter obtains the video site, Vine.

Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion.

Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19 billion.

Apple users have downloaded over 50 billion apps.

Yahoo purchases Tumblr.

There are more than 156 million blogs.

Social media and especially Twitter have a major role in organizing political action like the Arab Spring.

As of December 2013, Twitter has 241 million active users every month and Facebook, 1.23 billion.


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