Social Media? It’s old news

Originally coded in just ten days, My Space recently underwent a rather hasty, poorly-executed face lift. With little done to improve its reputation, the number of registered accounts continues to decline, largely because of the painfully slow streaming media, and cumbersome methods of conversation it offers.

Now News Corp is selling its shares in the company, and word is that days are numbered. Like any sensible PR agency in the North West, we know not to believe spurious statements, but there’s no denying that My Space has remained prominent largely thanks to musicians and those in associated industries. Many of these people are now jumping ship to the more stable, highly specialised Sound Cloud, so alarm bells must be ringing.

You could easily believe this represents the first great fall from grace for a dominant force on the social media landscape. That’s actually far from the real truth, as the roots of electronic discourse can be traced back almost half a century…

In the beginning there was sound
Emerging from the 1950s, phreaking (the telephone version of hacking) saw communities of technophiles host remote conferences and discuss new developments, often in a bid to avoid hefty national and international call charges. And, according to Dead Dinosaur, the CB radio, with its code words, usernames and etiquette, also resembles an early network.

Enter the technology age
By the mid-70s computers were seen as the future of business. Locals in San Francisco began using Community Memory, the first ever electronic noticeboard, to leave messages on subjects categorised by keywords for others to search and read. People were sharing ideas. It might have been via one computer in a record shop, but nonetheless help, advice, and friendships were all possible without having met or spoken, for the first time in history.

Fanning the flames
Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) had become increasingly prevalent by the 1980s. The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL) had also arrived, largely thanks to an international effort to repair a downed helicopter in the Himalayas. It wasn’t long before terms like flame war were being banded about, as a new platform for mud-slinging had emerged, while a BBS called Usenet began distributing a sign of things to come- the first web browser.

Upload your profile
The first truly modern social networks arrived as the dotcom bubble swelled. In the mid-90s Geocities invited the world to set up subject specific mini-websites. Around this time The Globe begins pioneering blogs by offering the chance to self-publish. And, a little later, AOL starts to push its Instant Messenger service, while the defunct Sixdegrees.com introduces profiles, personalising the experience and giving future sites a blueprint.

After the crash
As the millennium approached people panicked about planes falling from the sky. That didn’t happen, but the value of web businesses did drop. The smoke cleared as online retail rallied a comeback, and people started talking about ‘web 2.0’. The user-generated era had arrived, as had Friendster, a network that still boasts some 90 million users. My Space opens circa 2003, followed by Facebook 12 months later, and then Twitter in 2006.

Wherever you are
It would be easy to leave it there, but in truth GPS and 3G mobile technology has added another significant step. Now we’re checking into bars via our phones, and claiming all kinds of discounts at shops, hotels, clubs and restaurants- to name but a few businesses in on the act. Social Networking is mobile, and responsive to our location. If history is anything to go off this isn’t the last chapter, so watch this space for further developments.

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