How did Social Media start?
Some could argue that social media has been around since the Internet went public (possibly even before) with sites that provided forums for discussion using handles and supporting interaction between users. The more recent and most popular forms of social media, which will be the focus of this research, are social networking sites. The main difference between social media and social networking is “…social media is still a media which is primarily used to transmit or share information with a broad audience, while social networking is an act of engagement as people with common interests associate together and build relationships through community” (Edosomwan 5).
According to Danah Boyd, “the first recognizable social network site launched in 1997. SixDegrees.com allowed users to create profiles, list their Friends and, beginning in 1998, surf the Friends lists” (Boyd 214). Between 1997 and today hundreds of these types of sites began to appear from Friendster.com to MySpace.com and eventually sites more popular today like Facebook.com and Twitter.com. In the timeline below (Figure 1), Boyd provides a look at the evolution of social networking sites from 1997 to 2006. Although Friendster was likely the first ‘household name’ social networking website, it wasn’t until MySpace.com appeared that social media really became popular on a massive scale. According to Boyd, MySpace was set apart because it didn’t cater to any specific group and created a truly ‘all are welcome’ community while simultaneously adding features based on its users’ demands (Boyd 217). While Facebook initially started as a niche community social networking site, it’s expansion into the global market while allowing for developer applications and completely public viewed profiles along with MySpace.com’s legal troubles, caused a paradigm shift. Around the same time websites like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Foursquare and so on launched allowing users to network with friends and strangers in unique ways.