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Facebook, MySpace & Co. – A trip back in time

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Understanding Social Media
This article is based on the free ebook "Understanding Social Media"

By now, nobody can imagine the online world without social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn & Co. But do you know when exactly this idea of connecting people was born? No! It wasn’t in 2003 when Facebook was introduced, it was a bit earlier. Let’s take a look!


Social networking – the early days

By the middle of the 1990s it became quite clear from the way the Internet was being used by the people that they loved to network, share content, upload or download files and share them online with friends and also liked to keep in touch with the updated news and whereabouts of their contacts. Thus the concept of “social networking” took shape in the form of several websites that offered such “networking” features.

Initially, social networking sites tried to connect people who were connected to each other from their early school days with sites like, which proved to be a really good way for people to have a virtual reunion and therefore became quite popular in the US. However, the early users could not create profiles, but were successful in locating long-lost buddies and the site has managed to register more than 40 million accounts today.

Another site that sprung up in 1997 called did not share a similar kind of success, but was one of the very first sites to allow users to create profiles, invite friends, organize groups and also be able to surf other user profiles. The site was based on the theory that no person is separated from another by more than six degrees.


Friendster, born in 2002

2002 was the year when social networking scene really hit the Internet with the launch of a site called Friendster. This site also used the similar concept of degree of separation like the now defunct and refined it to a “Circle of Friends” (that displayed the pathways connecting two people). The concept promoted the idea of a rich online community that could exist only if there were common bonds between people and the site went on to ensure that there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds. The site became hugely popular and an instant hit boasting of more than 115 million registered users and still remains a force in Asia and a near-necessity in the Philippines. Today, has been re-invented to become an online fun virtual gaming community and forums site intended for teenagers and adults.


Facebook, LinkedIn & MySpace

A year later, in 2003, other social networking sites like LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook were introduced.

LinkedIn became a serious and sober social networking site for professionals and business people who wished to connect with other professionals. Today, the site has over 100 million users and is still growing.

MySpace was founded by Specific Media LLC and pop star Justin Timberlake in 2003 and became a hit in the US. News Corporation later acquired it in July 2005 for $580 million. MySpace was the most visited social networking site in the world from July 2005 till early 2008 and even surpassed Google in the year 2006. It had over 33.1 million unique U.S. visitors in August 2011. However, in 2008, Facebook overtook MySpace in the number of unique worldwide visitors.

Facebook was launched in the year 2004 as a social networking service and website, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and a few of his colleagues. The website’s membership was initially limited to students of Harvard University, but was later expanded to include other universities in the Boston area, the Ivy League and Stanford University. Much later, in 2006, it was finally opened to the general public for people of all age groups above 13 years of age. The site, for obvious reasons, became a huge hit among students and by July 2011 it had over 800 million active users.


And what about Google plus?

Google has been trying to join the social networking scene with projects like the Google Wave, Buzz and Talk, but these didn’t really kick off with the masses. Google has now come out with Google Plus (Google +), which is quite similar to Facebook with a few more features like “circles” of friends and acquaintances or followers.

Google Plus is still in the evolving stages and has now also opened its doors to business pages, which have been welcomed with open arms. Google Plus did manage to get over 20 million unique visitors in just a matter of three weeks since its release in June 2011. It had over 25 million registered users by August 2011. Google plus has now become a serious competitor for Facebook and both are now trying hard to be in the number one spot.


If you are interested in more facts about social media, then “Understanding Social Media” written by Varinder Taprial and Priya Kanwar is the right book for you.