World Social Media Day: The History of Social Media

Katie Dodshon

Katie Dodshon

June 27 • 12 minute read

Ahead of World Social Media Day on June 30th, we’re looking back on the ways in which social media has evolved and came along since the internet very first came about.

Microsoft Internet Start – 1995

It goes without saying that we wouldn’t have social networks if it wasn’t for the internet at all. Microsoft Internet Start was launched in 1995 with the MSN domain.

 

The msn.com domain was initially used to promote MSN as an internet provider, displaying basic information like weather and news, but soon progressed to other platforms, some of which still available today.

MSN Messenger – 1999

The first of it’s kind, MSN launched a messenger platform in 1999 which was soon rebranded to Window’s Live. This application allowed MSN users to contact each other directly and send messages in real time. This breakthrough in the online world which soon brought many more social networks to follow, slowly introducing more and more features which we will go on to explore.

We’re getting serious nostalgia looking back on the very beginning of Social Networking… If only we knew just how much we had to come. From a marketing perspective, there wasn’t must that could be done on these platforms. Microsoft Internet Start featured other applications with weather, sport, entertainment, news and more however the world of digital marketing was only just beginning. With more and more social networks to follow from the Windows Live Messenger breakthrough, it was only a matter of time before full marketing potential was found in the digital world.

Habbo Hotel – 2000

Habbo was not so much a Social Network as we know them today, however it is a significant cornerstone of the social side of the internet. Following closely on from Window’s Live, Habbo Hotel launched just one year later. This platform allowed users to create their own Habbo character and design hotel rooms, meet new friends, chat with other players, organise parties and more.

This virtual chatroom was the first of it’s kind, allowing people to chat to strangers around the globe. The site became hugely popular with users in over 150 countries eventually signing up to the network. Other online chatrooms soon emerged after the launch of Habbo, such as RuneScape (2001), Stardoll (2004) and Club Penguin (2005).

Myspace – 2003

The launch of myspace came in 2003, bringing a network where users can chat with friends, share photos, music, videos and blogs along with creating user profiles to find and connect with friends. Myspace very quickly shot to success, overtaking Google as the most visited site in America in 2006, three years after the launch.

This is where social networks really started to take shape. Myspace was the first platform which really incorporated multimedia content all in one place. Having a personal profile where users can share status updates along with a mixture of content paved the way for other networking sites to follow. This format is still loosely adhered to in all social networks since the launch of myspace, even platforms we regularly use today such as Facebook. Twitter and Instagram.

An interesting fact about myspace links to that of a digital marketing aspect. We’re all too familiar with Instagram influencers and millennial culture, however have we considered where the demand for followers came from? Back in 2006, Tila Tequila was the most viewed myspace profile, making users want to add random friends and grow their network just like her. Although people may not have agreed with her posts, she still managed to become a myspace phenomenon. So little did we know… There were influencers before the Instagram era.

Linkedin – 2003

Finally… A site we still use regularly today! Linkedin came on the scene around the same time as myspace, offering a business and employment orientated service. The site allows users to search for jobs, reach out to potential employers and share their CV. Linkedin proved to be a huge success, reaching 1 million users by 2004, one year after their launch.

Linkedin reached 10 million users in 2007, and launched their mobile app in 2008. This was the first platform to launch and maintain it’s success through to 2019. Being the first and only successful business orientated social network, it is no surprise that Linkedin has managed to grow and grow over the past 16 years. Linkedin follows the same format as myspace in terms of content, letting users share a various range of content. This benefits businesses and allows them to get their message across to a following of like-minded people. This type of network essentially lets your content be shared with a tailored and suitable audience yet still remain organic.

Flickr – 2004

Flickr was quite a short lived phenomenon, however is still on the go today with many users sharing content with one another. Flickr is a image and video sharing site which now has around 87 million users.

Earlier versions of Flickr featured a chat room called FlickrLive where users could share and exchange images with one another in real time. As well as this being a networking site, Flickr was also a hosting platform where bloggers and other internet users would store their images which they embed into blogs and other social media. Without this hosting feature, Flickr would be largely similar to Instagram, and would essentially be the concept in which Instagram derived from.

Facebook – 2004

A classic social network that has stuck with us through the years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. First launched as a platform limited to students of Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and Yale. In 2006, Facebook was opened up to the public where users as young as 13 years old could sign up. The aim for Facebook now was to connect users with friends, founder Mark Zuckerberg had the vision for this to be the sole site for sharing content and communicating with friends and family.

By 2018, Facebook had a huge 2.4 billion users, however some of which being fake accounts. Facebook has came along way and advanced significantly since the launch. The mobile app was released in 2007, followed by the separate Facebook Messenger app in 2011. It is no secret that Facebook was a huge turning point in the digital world, shaping the success of social networking platforms and continuing to be the most popular networking site. Facebook makes most of it’s revenue via advertisements which appear on users News Feeds.

Facebook has introduced many benefits for the digital marketing industry during it’s time, with Facebook for business being released. Facebook Business Manager was launched in 2014, allowing businesses to keep on top of their pages more securely. Of course, with the progress of the internet itself and the sheer amount of people using Facebook, advertising here seemed the next best step to take for digital marketing. The birth Facebook ads came with Facebook’s Ads Manager platform, allowing businesses to create bespoke ads, targeted to a specific demographic.

Youtube – 2005

Youtube is a unique social network which is based solely around sharing video content. Users can create an account, share videos and subscribe to channels which they enjoy. Youtube soon became the go-to site for video access, from comedy videos. tutorials,, music and more. Youtube also brought the rise of vloggers (video bloggers), and accelerated the success of many vloggers, now named ‘Youtubers’ who are present across many social networking platforms.

Youtube now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries after they bought the platform in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Not following the traditional social networking formula of sharing multiple types of content and connecting with friends as such, Youtube has became a unique, video only platform which has turned out to be very successful.

BBM – 2006

Blackberry Messenger seems a lot more old school than this right? As the popularity of Blackberry phones grey, BBM was launched by Blackberry as a way for all Blackberry users to communicate individually or via groups.

BBM served no real purpose in the digital marketing world and it would be a push to say this was a real social network. Of course, the platform allowed users to communicate with one another, however the user base was limited. This short lived hype soon died down and BBM was officially closed down earlier this year.

Twitter – 2006

After the launch of Twitter in 2006, it soon became, and still remains to be a very popular networking site. The concept of Twitter is to share short pieces of content with others on the platform. Following the traditional ways, users create a profile, share updates and media and are able to respond to each other with their opinion or re-post this to their own feed, branded as a “re-tweet”. Due to the nature of the platform, Twitter has brought people together a lot more online – letting people respond and essentially debate with other content if they wish to do so.

The “What’s Happening” slogan suggests the short and snappy, update style content that Twitter is used for. By 2013, Twitter has became one of the ten most visited websites and has been described as “The SMS of the Internet”. By 2018, Twitter had more than 321 million monthly active users. Due to the debate nature of the platform and the easiness to re-share content, Twitter soon became a large news source.

Tumblr – 2007

Tumblr was once a very popular, blog-style social network which allowed users to create their profile, essentially giving them their own little space of the internet with their own domain. Users could then post content and also re-blog content they like onto their own feed to build it up further.

The platform is a very unique network, where users can communicate with one another through content, rather than direct message. Tumblr doesn’t feature a prominent messaging platform, however allows users to comment on content and communicate that way. In 2016, Tumblr reached a huge 555 million monthly visitors, and now hosts 465 million blogs today.

Whatsapp – 2008

Whatsapp is a cross-platform messaging service, now owned by Facebook, which allows people to send written and voice messages, voice and video calls and share media privately.

No public profile is needed for Whatsapp, the platform is simply a messaging service rather than a multi-functional social network, but still a social network none the less. IN 2018, Whatsapp had over 1.5 billion users and was made the most popular messaging service at the time.

Instagram – 2010

The next photo and video sharing site after Flickr, this platform soon shot to success after it’s launch in 2010. Launched primarily as a mobile app, users can create a profile in which they can share pictures and short videos to their followers. Another platform owned by Facebook, this application rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million in a year, and 1 billion as of May 2019. The platform has came along in leaps and bounds since the launch, introducing fresh, new features such as stories – where users can share content viewable for just 24hours.

Although we’ve established that influencers did exist prior to Instagram, it is no secret that Instagram has brought the influencer culture on further. With the help of reality TV, influencer culture is bigger than ever. Previous reality TV stars continue their career via Instagram, promoting products and working alongside brands. Digital marketing has been heavily influenced by Instagram in many different ways. Not only are influencers a huge part of this, multi level marketing schemes play a huge part in the Instagram money-making business.

Snapchat – 2011

This revolutionary, multimedia messaging app was launched in 2011 for mobile devices. The unique feature Snapchat holds is the time limit on messages. Pictures and messages can be shared between friends for a limited amount of time, and disappear for good once the message has been opened and acknowledged.

Snapchat allows users to use fun filters and send pictures and direct messages to each other in a more fun way. Snapchat stories were introduced before Instagram stories, however some would argue that Instagram is a lot more popular in terms of the app style. In 2018, Snapchat reached a huge 187 million monthly active users.

Now that we’re at the end of our journey through the history of social media, we’re curious to see the advances that are to come. We didn’t realise just how much social networking has came along over the years!

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