Social Network History 101: From MSN to Twitter and Beyond


Image: Blogging Bistro


What was your first introduction to social media? MySpace? Geocities? Facebook? The origins of social media can be traced as far back as 1969 with the introduction of CompuServe, but the social network in the form that billions of us use daily came along a little later. How did we get to the point we are at now, where 1 in 4 people in the world use some form of social network? What does the future hold for the ever changing industry?


The lifespan of social networks can be very short.  One day you are the network to be on and the next day you are old news. A timeline of social networks would be littered with causalities that didn’t manage to win us over and declined rapidly (Anyone remember Friendster?).


To comprehensively name all the developments within social media would be akin to detailing the history of internet usage as the two are interconnected. Let’s instead look at some of the big events that have taken social networks to the scale they are at today.


1994- The beginning

1994 was the year Geocities was founded and arguably it laid the foundations for our modern social network. The website allowed users to create their own home page and place it like a plot of land within a relevant virtual city. For example computer related pages would be in “Silicon Valley” and entertainment pages in “Hollywood”.  It was bought by Yahoo in 1999 when it was the third most visited site on the internet but quietly closed in 2009.


1997-1999: Messengers

In 1997 AOL Messenger allowed users to chat instaneaously online with a simple and easy to use interface.

Add MSN Messenger to the mix in 1999 and you get a generation of teens in the early noughties rushing back from school so they could nudge, block and add their school friends. At its peak the MSN messenger had 300 million users and both messenger programs gave users (particularly teens) a free and easy way to socialise once they got home in their own time. It also meant parents had a nightly battle for the phone line in those pre-broadband days and millions of millennial got an awkward introduction to relationships.


2003-2005: Rise of the social Network

MySpace and LinkedIn are launched in 2003. Although not the first social network, MySpace was the biggest network of its time offering users the chance contact friends, customise their own page and interact with people of similar interests. LinkedIn was a network designed for working professionals.

Facebook launches in 2004 at Harvard College as a college version of Friendster.

YouTube begins to store videos in 2005 and users are able to share their videos with the world.


2006-2011: Facebook Domination

Twitter the micro blogging site is launched in 2006.

In 2007 Apple launches the iPhone which enables people to access social networks quickly on their phones. The convenience of accessing social networks through mobile apps helps to further boost social media usage.

Facebook becomes the dominant form of social media on the internet in April 2008 when it surpasses its main rival MySpace.

In 2010 Pinterest is launched as a photo sharing network that allows users to “pin” images to their pinboards. It is very popular with woman, with 70% of their users being female.

By 2011 social networks have become a staple of modern life. Facebook has 550 million users; there are 65 million Tweets a day and 2 billion video views each day on Twitter.


2012- Future: What’s Next?


Image: Forbes


Facebook now has over 1.1 billion users and is still growing. But the numbers of social networks is also still growing. Nextt is just one of those networks attempting to gain market share in the future. The number 2 network, Google+ , is also attracting attention as it now has 343 million active users and its incorporation with Google search means users can not only get a social network suitable for business and personal use but also a network that can give users a more personalised search experience.


Twitter, which has a quarter of the users that Facebook has, have seen year on year growth since they launched but there growth is slowing. In the last 12 months Twitter has grown by 63 million users in 12 months. Facebook adds about 65 million users every 6 weeks! It seems Facebook will not be toppled just yet.


By Sam Shedden