I recently was thinking.. which can be a dangerous thing and I found myself asking the question “how did social media happen?” and how did it evolve from the primordial web soup?
So I looked up some Wikipedia references on social media and social networking and also about it’s early history to obtain some insights into the what, why and how. The “Free” online encyclapedia Wikipedia said (remember you used to have to pay $2,000- 3,000 for the Encyclapedia Britannica to put on your shelves)
“A social network service focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services”
In other words a social network service or channel enables 2 way communication and sharing between like minded people. Wikipedia mentioned the following services as being some of the earliest forerunners to social networking Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV, bulletin board services (BBS) and EIESBulletin board services (BBS)”
These services were very clunky ways of sharing information within like minded communities and involved forum like platforms and email that were slow and hard to use. The issue also was that the Internet community was very small and lacked critical mass due to primitive technology and slow takeup by users. These social network platforms were in use as far back as the 1980’s.
In 1995 social media networks evolved to the next stage of evolution with channels such as classmates.com (which as of December 2009, Classmates.com is ranked by Alexa as one of the top 1,000 most popular sites. The site receives about 2 million monthly unique visitors), which could be said to be the precursor to Facebook.
Other sites emerged and failed over time until the technology and the critical mass of the internet combined and made the social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace successful and mainstream.
Here is a YouTube video that shows some of recent growth of social media
In essence it was all to hard for average Joe to use these services in the past unless you were a “Geek” and also the other things to keep in mind was that the technolgy was not mature and was expensive.
So why has Social Media emerged as one of the dominating evolutions of the Web in the last 2-3 years and why have sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube become giants among the thousands of social media channels and platforms that have continued to evolve and proliferate?
Here are some of the factors that I believe have facilitated the emergence of social media and social networks in 2010 as a dominant internet web force.
- Fast Computer Processors(CPU’s)..computers were slow and couldn’t handle the fun stuff like images and videos that social networking demands until faster processors became available
- Cheaper CPU’s ( Expensive processors made computers expensive so only passionate computer users had computers)
- Cost effective broadband (Broadband used to be expensive so not many people had it at home so downloading images and video was slow)
- Fast Broadband (faster broadband opened new opportunities to spread multimedia content quickly and easily.. low friction)
- Wireless Broadband ( you can now send anything anytime and anywhere, including sending video and surfing from coffee shops while sipping your latte)
- Cheaper Hard disks (multimedia information that is now shared constantly on social media such as images and high definition video requires large disks for storage, so this is now cost effective for almost anyone)
- New hardware platforms that are intuitive and easy to use like iPhone and iPad
- Smaller Hard Disks with lots of storage provides mobile platforms like notebooks, netbooks and smartphones with the storage to share
- Cloud computing allowing software to be downloaded and updated online, anytime and anywhere inluding mobile social media apps (you used to have order CD’s toget your software)
- Easy to use Blog Platforms like WordPress and Typepad that have made blogging easy like falling off a log
- Open source software that has allowed passionate users to develop applications for free, download and use it straight away
- Entrepreneurs willing to invest in technology that enables social media and be willing to possibly fail and fail fast
- Google that has provided the website to find information that guides us to the tools and means to make it happen intuitively and easily
- Finally, we as social human beings just wanted it, because it was fun and struck a chord.. we like to socialize (online and offline)
What are other factors you think have enabled the growth of social media in the last few years?