A History of Social Media [Infographic]

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I’m going to let you in on a well-kept secret.

There’s nothing new about “social media.”

Further, most online social sharing still happens outside of social networks.

From the very first email sent by researchers in Switzerland in 1971, to modern sites like Google+ and Pinterest, the Internet, and the valuable content it distributes, have always been social.

The very purpose of the Internet (every blog, website and virtual gathering place within it) is to let people connect, communicate, and collaborate.

So the concept behind Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking tools isn’t new. These sites just give us new, sexy, and easy-to use ways to do what we’ve always wanted to do online — exchange ideas and information.

The Internet has always been social, and it always will be. Still not convinced?

Here’s a handy timeline that might dispel any further historical myths about the true nature of the Internet, and where we’re all going with it, together

A History of Social Media [Infographic]

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About the Author: Beth Hayden is a Senior Staff Writer for Copyblogger Media. Get more from Beth on Twitter and Pinterest.

About the Designer: Rafal Tomal is Copyblogger Media's Lead Designer. Get more from Rafal on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Excellent, like it a lot! Interesting that you can trace it as far back as 1971. You missed StumbleUpon off of here, though. It’s my favourite social media format, although it’s not strictly about interacting with other users. Regardless it’s the most enjoyable social media tool I’ve come across, asides from Pinterest and Twitter.

    I, and many others, find Facebook to be a real annoyance. There’s something about it that promotes your friends to behave like narcissistic morons.

    • StumbleUpon is in there – it’s at 2001.

    • Guess it depends on who your friends are. :)

      • Facebook was recently voted the most annoying social media format. I think it has the habit of bringing the worst out in people; in a celebrity infatuated society it allows us to document our lives and, effectively, show off. That’s fine if you don’t mind that type of thing, but to see people complain about their lives, about being stuck on a motorway, taking pictures of their lunch… no thanks.

        • I totally agree with you Alex! Unfortunately people do like to show off even to the point of taking a photo of a sandwich they’ve just made for lunch and it’s also a proven portal for family rows.
          Could it be that the majority on social platforms are bored out of their skulls?
          I’ve written my simple views on it here http://www.jimbase.com/facebook-brews/ (if admin will kindly allow) where i feel people are living their lifes on Facebook rather than outside their front door.
          Jimi.

    • LOL! Yeah I hear ya. Facebook is annoying and hasn’t really proved its use to me yet. People seem to be more obsessed in what each had for lunch and sharing celebrity gossip rather than sharing good content one has made personally. I have shared a lot of good content I have created it gets shared on twitter and Google+ by complete strangers but gets buried under in Facebook.
      Ben

      • Some folks agree that Facebook is annoying – but there’s no doubt that it was created as a way for people to communicate with other people! :) What they choose to communication ABOUT (lunch, etc.) is completely up to them. Perhaps we’re just a species who enjoys talking an inane things?

      • I think it depends on your audience. Mine prefers Facebook and Pinterest to Twitter.

    • What about CompuServe? They invented text chat.

  2. This infographic shows that the web has always been social in one way or another. It’s about connecting people in new ways and giving people the opportunity to reach out and find new people to connect with. Each person has a story to tell and social media lets you do it.

  3. Exactly, Nick! :) Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  4. 2003 – Skype? i certainly used it to build a strong community and share content……

  5. Just amazing how time has gone by and how the interent has grown- i remember my first computer – we had no interent what did we use them for? then we got a CD via the post from AOL and thinking it yes its awesome lets dial up hahahaha

  6. Brilliant. Thank you!

  7. I would imagine many of us have sites we could add to this, but it’s already not a small document. :)

    The early networking sites — GEnie, the WELL, CompuServe were interesting mainly because they had the same joys and annoyances as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. There were some great, vibrant communities that sprung up almost as soon as there *was* an internet.

  8. This is astoundingly great. I’m especially eager to share this with younger friends and colleagues, just to show that the tools we consider to be brand-new are usually just more current and modern iterations of what we’ve all been trying to accomplish on the Web for as long as it’s existed: better connections with the people and ideas that matter most to us. Thanks for your work on this!

  9. Ah, but there is at least one missing ingredient… back in 1971, who, on the ARPAnet, did ARPA send that first email to? There were a few companies involved in that initial backbone that started this beast.

  10. Oh wow; this really brings back memories! I used to love Meetup & LiveJournal. Made some great friends on there. In fact, I still have my Livejournal account. But I think it may be time to delete it (after converting it into a print book or something).

  11. Pretty cool graphic. Did not know some of that stuff.

  12. A very interesting and eye-opening infographic. Good post!

  13. Yes I learned a lot from that graphic, but you left out Al gore?

    Didn’t he create the internet? (meant as a joke)

    What about giving some credit to Steve Jobs? (Not meant as a joke)

  14. Would have loved to add more folks on here, but we just ran out of room. If we had included every site (and person) we wanted to acknowledge, it would’ve got totally unwieldy. Thanks for your thoughts, though!

    • Beth – it is a great summary and I know it must have been a challenge to festure as many sites as possible. If you do update it at sometime I would suggest that LinkedIn is included as it’s significantly affected how professionals network online and has significant global reach.

  15. I am pretty new to all of marketing on social media. I have been blogging for a couple of years and just getting ready to launch a book. I think I have been backwards in my pursuit……..your site provides so much to glean from. Thanks

  16. I think my favorite part is the addition of Carly’s Voice in there! Her story was so inspiring to us since our youngest is nonverbal! I’m totally sharing this on my own blog and expounding on the idea of social media being a way for the special needs community to further connect with one another about diagnoses, stories, support, and research … I’ve decided this one is just about my favorite :D

  17. This is really a very interesting infographic. It tells us that if you strip all the technology, social media really is about fulfilling one of the basic human needs to connect with like-minded individual.

    Keeping this basic principle in mind will help anyone who wants to succeed in using social media to spread the word. It’s about getting higher rankings in the search engines. Social media is about connecting to people who are interested in what you have to say.

  18. I think this is the first history timeline that starts AFTER my birth. I remember being in a classroom when the internet was introduced and I could not figure out how typing words into a white box would make new pages appear. ;-) Besides being depressing in that it makes me feel old, it’s a great infographic.

  19. Wow, what a great Infographic!
    It’s a nice one to confront people with who say they “have been on social media since 2006 already”
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Ahem … You have all overlooked my friend Doug Engelbart, The pioneer in collaboration through the Internet. You are all so young. But Doug deserves more credit.

    The website above is not mine, but it will give you an insight on the brilliant and kind Doug Engelbart.

  21. Wow that was just great infographic.
    Well-researched and superbly designed. Hats off to you.
    Apart from the research and design, I loved the way it is presented and on the most hot topic of today – social media.
    Once again. Superb !!!!

  22. Fun. Thanks. Next: mobile apps that facilitate socializing in real life, not apps that distract us from the people/activities/events around us.

  23. How about Instagram as part of social media comparing with Pinterest…

  24. I love this! Although it is not all-inclusive it does you an idea of the historical timeline. Well done!

  25. Peggy Gruenke :

    Where’s Linked In?

  26. Interesting but hard to take serious when it includes Google Buzz and excludes LinkedIn. What’s up with that?

  27. People are most interested in people and we love word of mouth recommendations, to say nothing of wanting to nose through each others’ photos and friend lists so it is only natural social media sites should have such a massive impact not only on our contemporary life experience, but upon marketing today.

  28. I agree Beth!! People who are the most transparent are the ones who have the most hits it seems. We want to feel normal…so when we read that others are just like us it seems to validate our experience. I am amazed at the world of social media…..just educating myself now to help with self publishing my book. Finding this blog very helpful…thanks!!

  29. Interesting graphic… I was surprised that MySpace and Facebook where that close together. I remember MySpace was the craze and I had not even heard of Facebook until I was talking with a bunch of college kids one night and they brought it up.

  30. Wow. And back then, I thought MySpace was revolutionary because of its music player. I completely lost track of how social media has grown. This reminded me of it. Nice post!

  31. A brilliant infographic and comprehensive too – it does make you stop and think “what is social media, anyway”. As you quite rightly says, all forms of internet connection whether they be email or website are social in their very nature. I find that a lot of my clients when looking for new websites or a redesign tend to ask about social media instead of natural SEO which in my mind is far more important. Unless you are a large company, a brand, have a start-up with a killer mass-market prouct, social media is likely to be more a drain on your resources than a real business earner. Contrast natural SEO and sparingly used PPC which can bring motivated purchasers/clients to your website instantly. But Facebook, Twitter et al are the flavour of the moment and in my mind are the tail that wags the dog when it comes to getting business through the door – Google+ could be a different but is more a strategic option to improve natural SEO rather than a crowd-puller in my mind.
    The social media story/myth continues…

  32. Great infographic! I think it would be interesting to show an extension of this relating social media etiquette…specifically how social media engagement is really common sense, similar to face-to-face conversation with people. It seems to common sense to not just post promotional crap and talk about yourself all the time – instead interact, engage, inspire, and learn, just as you do with people face-to-face. At least, we hope! Thanks again for this beautiful infographic – good stuff!

  33. Personally I believe that Facebook and Twitter are the two front runners in social media, with everybody lagging behind. Myspace has been unable to adapt to the ever changing world of social media, however it will be interesting to see if the new revamp of 2012 will bring it back to the forefront of social media. Another great form of social media is Linkedin, however this is primarily targeted towards those in employment.