December 4th, 2017

Online Socializing – The beginning. A look into the journey of online social networks

Man’s need to socialize

Man is by nature a social animal said the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. From the early days of civilization to the modern 21st century, mankind has always sought out better ways to connect with fellow human beings. Socializing plays a big role in serving us a sense of belonging. Today, there are multiple platforms that provide us interesting and different ways to interact with other people. Most of us use at least three or four such platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Linkedin etc in our daily life. It is easier now more than ever to know what your old buddy or colleague is upto. But as technology moves forward, every aspect of life will also encounter inevitable changes. With Virtual Reality, the next giant leap in technology on the rise, the world of socializing is in for a massive turnaround.

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The evolution of online social networks

Computer networks were identified as an efficient tool for modified social interaction right from the early stages of its inception. Efforts were made to support computer mediated communication even in earlier online services such as Usenet, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), LISTSERV and Bulletin Board Services (BBS). America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe, ChatNet and The WELL include some of the preliminary online services. Some of the other earlier social networking sites in the form of generalized online communities were Theglobe.com, Geocities and Tripod.com. TheGlob.com was founded in 1994 by Cornell University students Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizelman. The service went public in November 13 1998 and held the largest first day gain of any Initial Public Offering up until then. Geocities was founded in November 1994 by David Bohnett and John Rezner and was called Beverly Hills Internet (BHI) for a very short span of time. In Geocities, users could select a city to place their web pages. The cities were assigned the name of real cities based on the content. For example, computer related sites were allocated in “Silicon Valley” and entertainment sites were assigned to “Hollywood”. On January 28 1999, Geocities were acquired by Yahoo and during the time of acquisition it was the third most visited site on the Internet. Tripod.Com was founded by Lycos, Inc and it was instrumental in the wave of user generated content.

Classmates.com was founded on November 17 1995 by Randy Conrads, a product of Oregon State University. As the name implies, this site aimed at helping users find their old school pals and colleagues. PlanetAll was a social networking, calendaring and address book site launched in November 1996 by a group of Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates. The site had more than 100,000 groups structured around real world counterparts such as academic institutions and employers. When a user enters the name of his or her university, the site would showcase their classmates who were also members of the service. The site featured an interesting service. When a user enters their travelling plan into the calendar, they would cross reference the destination with the address book as well as the travelling plans of their contacts. The site would then notify a user when would they cross path with their contacts.

The present generation of social networking sites began to prosper with the arrival of SixDegrees.Com in 1997, Makeoutclub in 2000, Hub Culture and Friendster in 2002. All living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other says the idea of six degrees of separation. This idea formed the basis for the social site SixDegrees.com. The site allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally. Users could also send messages and circulate bulletin board items to people in their first, second and third degrees and also see how one user is connected to any other user. Makeoutclub, that was predominantly aimed towards youth and indie music culture was launched in 1999 by Gibby Miller. Makeoutclub introduced features such as customizable user profiles with photos and interest sections which later became the standard for social networking sites. The Hub Culture was launched in November 2002 and it was the first to merge online and physical world environments. As of March 2017, Hub Culture has more than 25000 members and they have exchanged over 500 million units of Ven, its virtual currency. Users could create profiles depending upon their field of expertise and knowledge to help others within the network. Members could create groups to manage group projects or exchange virtual currency in return for sharing of information. It was Canadian Computer Programmer Jonathan Abrams that gave shape to Friendster in 2002 and it was one of the first sites to reach over 1 million members. It was originally a social networking service website but was relaunched as a gaming platform in June 2011.

Myspace which was launched in 2003 became the largest social networking site in the world during the period of 2005 to 2008. In June 2006, it even went past Google to become the most visited website in United States. Myspace giantly influenced pop culture and music and also generated a very popular gaming platform. On February 2016, Myspace and its parent company were brought by Time Inc. LinkedIn, the business and employment oriented social networking site was launched on May 5 2003. Google launched Orkut in 2004 which went on to become one of the most visited websites in Brazil and India. In the same 2004, Facebook was introduced and is presently the most popular social networking site in the world.

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