Whether you were one of the early musical talents of Myspace in 03/04, an adult that subscribed to ‘Friends Reunited’ or the first to poke a Facebook friend – Social Networks their capabilities, use and etiquette have changed drastically and probably more so than any other product or service mankind has seen in the modern age.
My first encounter with Social Networks came in the form of America Online or more commonly known as AOL. Now AOL at the time was America’s leading internet provider and what made AOL so different to many providers during the late 90s/early 00’s was their bespoke landing page that gave the user access to AOL customer only content which included; games, news and chatrooms, this is where I would first encounter a social network – albeit an early one in the form of a text-based open group chat room. I used to spend approximately 10 minutes waiting for my 56K modem to dial the internet and connect to AOL excitedly waiting so I could join a chatroom and speak with girls older than myself (I was 11 at the time) to practice my ‘social skills’ using the usernames NaturallyFunny or NaturallyComical (both of which may I add were subject to monetary offers from other AOL users wanting to purchase them.)
Press forward 6-12months and Microsoft were next to leverage the power of text-based chatrooms by creating a chatroom that users could select an image of a character to represent their personality with predefined scenarios/emotions (MSN Comic Chat) – Longevity of the product was short as most schools, colleges and universities ensured the product was not installed on their computers that were powered by the Windows software, however the tech god’s at Microsoft knew this and were already working on the next evolution of social networks, a remote instant messaging client that can be accessed anywhere via username and password… enter the original Social Network, MSN Messenger.
Now, most of you reading this will be versed in Social Media acronyms LOL, WTF, KMT, FML and the rest… but my first exposure to this internet language was back in the 90’s with MSN Messenger. Allowing the user to communicate instantly before the global rise of mobile phones was MSN Messenger’s USP and tech-savvy teenagers were already addicted to the platform which allowed them to send text, animated icons (before they were known as emoji’s) images and files in later editions. Do you remember the last time you wrote A/S/L? or BRB… and who actually remembers where we went off to after writing it? (You can find out more in my The (almost) A-Z of Social Media)
A messaging system will only allow the user to go so far… e.g communicate but new start-up companies such as ‘Friends Reunited’ and ‘Friendster’ saw the value in allowing users to communicate within an online platform especially if they could offer the user a reason to sign up (here we have the first Social ROI…)
The evolution continued and in July 2000 ‘Friends Reunited’ was launched – The Social Network targeted middle-aged baby boomers that grew up without a dependence on technology (like you and me…) and for a nominal monthly fee could search their database to connect with old school friends. I remember watching my parents log into the network and be instantly filled with nostalgia at the names if their old schools, teachers and of course friendship groups. Maybe this is where my passion for Social Media started? Seeing how much enjoyment my dad received when scrolling through endless names and discovering how they got in life…
Move into the early 00’s and Myspace quickly identified its niche in the market by offering services to music professionals that no other social network has thought to capitalise upon – a platform in which to showcase the user’s artistic talents and ultimately market themselves in the process. I created a Myspace page when I was working in Music Television ready to launch the UK Urban Music Channel – Channel U. I remember uploading my favourite unsigned artists tracks to my profile to promote the talent we had in the UK and how grime was more than just music, it was a culture – a lifestyle.
Now Myspace was popular for a brief while but whilst Social Networks took hold of popular culture it failed to keep its user base and to this day I am still unsure why Justin Timberlake decided to buy the dying network, continuing the theme of #DeadSocialNetworks – Who remembers
’Friendster’ – RIP Those fake profiles…
Google+ – I still don’t really understand it and for the users that do, stop kidding yourself.
Del.icio.us – Imagine a bookmarking site that doesn’t work.
And don’t forget the #FamousForAWeek Networks…
Peach, Digg, Xanga, iTunes Ping, Pheed,
When Facebook was released to the masses (I won’t go into detail about how it was created for university students to network originally) it quite simply changed the internet, its user base and how we would interact for the proceeding decade. Original behaviours included poking other users, adding total randoms, posting personal questionnaires, adding all your relationship information to name a few. but with the world quickly moving into a digital age, innovators started to think of alternative ways of cashing in on the social media cash cow… in flew Twitter and again revolutionised the very way social network users interact online in less than 140 characters which confused the emojis out of everyone and This is why you’ve been using Twitter all #wrong.
I say bring back ThingsOnMyNan… but maybe I am biased. (but I wasn’t silly enough to follow these pieces of advice)
Writing this has brought back lots of memories and I’ve already started to imagine the memories ill conjure up when writing the follow-up to this article in a decades time.
Written by Nick Dereka – connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking here