Posted by: Reluctant runner | February 11, 2010

Timeline – A history of social networking sites

A structured timeline documenting the main websites that have contributed to the development of the phenominon that is, social networking.


Social Networking, with its roots firmly planted in the heydays of the 80’s mullets has blossomed spectacularly over the past decade. The most recent addition being Google’s Buzz, launched February 2010 which has sprung up from Gmail, attempting to harness its estimated 176 million users.

1985 – The WELL

The WELL, short for the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, is one of the oldest virtual communities still in existence, currently holding around 4,000 users. It began as a BBS (a dial up bulletin system) and is best known for internet forums, but also incorporates email and web pages.

1997 – Six Degrees

Six Degrees, named after the six degrees of separation theory, was one of the first social networking sites sporting the format which is commonly used today. It was also the first to allow people to create personalized profiles, invite friends to view them and browse others profiles.  Users were able to use these connections to promote their work, job-hunt or maintain friendships. It folded in 2000 but was hugely influential.

2002 – Friendster

Friendster also relied on the six degrees of separation theory, however it was redefined as the ‘Circle of Friends’.  Friendster placed emphasis on a rich online community, which boasted strong common bonds between people. It seemed to share traits with dating sites.

2003 – LinkedIn

LinkedIn was a more somber approach to social networking than the previous sites Six Degrees and Friendster, as it concentrated on business connections. It was used by professionals as a networking site to connect to other professionals, and today claims over 30 million users.

2003 – Myspace

Myspace, owned by News Corporation, was created by internet marketing company Intermix Media Inc. (formally eUniversity) who saw potential in the development of social networking.  Myspace incorporate popular features of other successful sites, and includes user profiles, photographs and comments.  It’s use has changed since the upsurge of Facebook, and is now a popular site for musicians promoting their material. However it is still the most popular networking site in the USA.

2004 – Facebook

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and fellow students, studying at Harvard University. It was originally founded purely for the use of university students, and remained as a campus based social networking site for the first two years. It was then expanded to other universities and finally extended to the general public in 2006. It can be used to create profiles and personal status notifications, and can also be used by organisations. It has over 350 million users worldwide and is the most used social networking site in existance.

2005 – Bebo

Bebo, which stands for Blog early, blog often, is a social networking site owned by AOL. It has a similar layout to other networking sites, consisting of a personal profile which can be customised accordingly. It includes blogs, photos and comment sections, and can be linked to facebook and twitter in order to follow friends updates.

2006 – Twitter

Twitter, the latest development in social networking, is essentially the process of micro-blogging, a constant stream of mini posts.  These keep contacts and followers up-to-date with everyday events in small bite-sized chunks which can be added from portable devices such as mobile phones. It was successfully launched in 2006 but has been criticized as taking up-to-date contact too far, resulting in a tidal wave of useless updates and information centering around the pointless and mundane.

2010 – Google Buzz

Google Buzz is built directly into Gmail as a competitor to popular social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.  It’s designed to set users up with the people they email the most and focuses on a sharing experience of photos, blogs, videos and links which can be shared publicaly or privately.  However this site has been criticzied due to problems with its privacy settings, and for the fact that its built into Gmail.  This fundamental function has been questionned, suggesting that users may not want to create personal profiles, blog or communicate with the same people they email.  Just days after its launch there have been hundreds of people frantically blogging on Technorati; posting their thoughts, critiques and suggestions for improvement on the shiney new social networking site.


  1. nice reminder. the social networking story is an evergreen one. no one knows for sure if a scary ending awaits…keep blogging!
    – you can check out my soc-net horror story on my blog.

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