A history of the business of social media (Infographic)

Social Media has recently become an integral part of our everyday lives, but it’s been around since long before Facebook and Twitter. What has changed is that social media is now widely available whereas it used to be limited to those with an in-depth understanding of technology and underground hacker circles.

In the 1970′s, a new form of social media emerged. It was called the BBS, or the “bulletin board system”. When BBSes first appeared on the scene, they were small servers powered from a personal computer attached to a telephone modem. BBSes worked much the way many forums and blogs do today; people could engage in community discussions, online games, upload and download files, etc. The main problem was that the computer was not a standard household commodity. They were large, expensive, slow and inefficient, thus severely limiting the number of people the actively participated on BBSes.

In the 1980′s, social media was very much an underground phenomenon. There were some legitimate BBSes, but the large majority of them were somehow connected to adult content, pirate software, hacking theories, anarchist movements and virus codes. Because of the nature of much of the online interaction, real names and identities were strictly guarded and the web was not a place for personal information sharing.

Social media became more “social” in the early 1990′s when the world wide web became available to the masses. Site like Compuserve and Prodigy were the first attempts to engage social media with more mainstream culture, but their early iterations were slow and expensive. As the Internet became more readily available, however, and service became faster, chat systems such as the AOL instant messenger began to take hold. The next huge trend was Napster, opening up the possibilities of information sharing and extending the possibilities of the type of media that could be exchanged online. Napster made music available online, and for free. Until recording labels and artists began to dispute the distribution of copyrighted material, Napster was the main source for media distribution.

The next phase of social media came with the emergence of social networking sites. “Friendster” was the first of its kind but was quickly trumped by MySpace then Facebook, Twitter, Google+,  Pinterest and lots more to come. As the Internet became a necessary tool for everyday life, people began to let go of the fear of revealing their real identity, indeed, many have put their full life on display for almost anyone to look at.

It is hard to imagine a world without social media now.

Secret History of Social Networking - BBC Podcast

A history of the business of social media (Infographic)

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