In June, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook had reached two billion users — a new milestone for all socialmedia platforms. While this achievement indicates just how immense today’s mediascape is, such a feat wouldn’t have been possible without the many formative social-media platforms popular before Facebook.
There’s no denying that social-media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have become key players in how information is disseminated — no matter if we’re sharing a groundbreaking discovery or a cat GIF. However, these platforms weren’t the first of their kind.
For example, SixDegrees. com was a foundational website for many social-networking platforms. Created in 1997, SixDegrees.com was predicated on Frigyes Karinthy’s theory of the same name, which states that two people anywhere on Earth are interconnected by six connections or less.
SixDegrees.com users could send messages to their first-, second- and third-degree connections — and invite those not on the website to join, a unique function for media platforms at the time. This focus on networking made SixDegrees. com the thematic predecessor to platforms like Myspace and even Facebook. The website eventually shut down in 2001.
Long before Tumblr became a major platform for angsty teenage blogging, Open Diary was the place for teens — and adults — to vent their frustrations online. Launched in 1998, Open Diary was just what its name indicates — an online diary where users could freely express their thoughts.
The logs could be posted to public, private or friends-only diaries, and those allowed to read someone’s diary could comment on their entries. The site was shut down in 2014.
Myspace is another Tumblr- like platform — and at one time, it was one of the most popular social-media websites on the internet. In the past, Myspace allowed users to create unique usernames and customizable layouts, giving the platform an undeniably unique feel — which is very similar to the atmosphere on Tumblr today.
Moreover, Myspace facilitated the creation of online communities for different interests and hobbies, where users were able to discuss their ideas about various topics. What’s more, Myspace even had GIF-like animations back then. Few would deny the seminal impact that Myspace had on the social-networking mediascape.
DeviantArt launched in 2000 as one of the earliest and largest image-sharing sites for art lovers online. The website is still running, though it’s not as popular now as it once was. By 2008, there were at least 36 million visitors to the website annually. Since 2006, DeviantArt has allowed artists to submit their work under Creative Commons licences — setting a precedent for imagesharing sites yet to come.
Before Spotify and Apple Music allowed people to share music, there was Napster. While not directly paving the way for our contemporary music- sharing services, Napster was the first real indication that music was meant to be shared and proliferated through the internet. The peer-to-peer sharing method that Napster employed is thought to have initiated the downfall of the album- centred approach to music, which led to the evolution of the music-streaming sites that we use today.
Websites and platforms like SixDegrees.com, Open Diary, DeviantArt and Napster paved the way to today’s social-media platforms. Just as some of these platforms have risen and fallen, the platforms that we use today will inevitably also lead to newer forms of social media. Until then, we just need to stick to our trusty Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram accounts and wait for what’s to come next.
Photo: Michaela DeMong