History Of Social Networks: Timeline of Innovation and Transformation

We tell you the history of social networks, how social media originated, and their characteristics. Also, its evolution time and the most popular networks.

What are social networks or social media?

Social networks and social media are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings.

Social networks are websites or applications that enable users to connect with other individuals and organizations to share information, ideas, and interests. They are built on the concept of creating and maintaining social connections.

Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of content, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks. They encompass a broader range of online tools and platforms that allow users to interact, share, and consume information.

In simpler terms, social networks focus on the connections and relationships between individuals, while social media emphasizes the sharing and consumption of content.

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences:

FeatureSocial NetworksSocial Media
Primary focusConnections and relationshipsSharing and consumption of content
Key featuresProfiles, connections, communication toolsContent creation, sharing, and interaction
ExamplesFacebook, LinkedIn, TwitterYouTube, Instagram, TikTok

History of social media

The history of social networks is a captivating tale of innovation, transformation, and the ever-evolving nature of human connection. From the early online communities of the 1990s to the global social media giants of today, social networks have fundamentally altered the way we connect, communicate, and consume information.

Early Pioneers and the Rise of Social Media

The advent of the internet and the World Wide Web in the late 1980s and early 1990s set the stage for the emergence of modern social networks. Pioneering platforms like GeoCities, Classmates.com, and SixDegrees.com paved the way for real-name connections and online communities.

MySpace, Friendster, and the Dawn of Social Media Giants

The late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed an explosion of social networking sites, each vying for user attention. Friendster and MySpace captivated users with their focus on real-name connections, photo sharing, and customizable profiles.

Facebook’s Ascendancy and the Evolving Landscape

Launched in 2004, Facebook emerged as the dominant social media platform, surpassing MySpace in popularity by 2008. Its clean interface, real-name connections, and emphasis on privacy settings propelled its success.

The history of social networks is the set of events, innovations, and technological developments that resulted in the appearance of social networks. 

Networks are virtual communities that through the Internet allow the exchange of information, data, and social contact between their users, or between them and the companies that advertise in these spaces.

In historical terms, social media is a very recent tool. They are part of the new trends and possibilities that the Internet made possible, and that goes beyond mere entertainment.

Social networks are powerful tools for advertising and propaganda, for measuring marketing trends, and for managing social capital.

On the other hand, they have been accused of serving as an instrument for disinformation and the expansion of so-called fake news or conspiracy theories.

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Background of social media

Background of social media

The history of social networks has important precursors, some as vital to the history of the Internet itself as ARPANET ( that is, ” Advanced Research Projects Agency Network “), which would become the germ of where the World Wide Web was produced.

ARPANET was a primitive American computer network, connecting certain universities, institutes, and military organizations. Its purpose was to defend the country from Soviet attacks during the Cold War and to facilitate the flow of confidential scientific information.

Thanks to it, the first email could be sent in 1971 and the Gutemberg Project, the first free online digital library, started in 1978. 

Finally, in 1991, this private exchange network was made public and the Internet was launched as we understand it today.

At that time, the flow of information and membership in online communities started, but vertically: there was an official page for a product, company, or service, and people could subscribe to receive notifications, advertising, and offers. 

In some cases, they could provide some feedback through statistics, surveys, or product evaluations.

The direct antecedent to social networks was GeoCities, Tripod, and Ciudad Futura services. These platforms offered the possibility of managing small and simple personalized web pages, organized in “neighborhoods” according to their content.

What is ARPANET?

ARPANET was a primitive American computer network.

Origin of social networks

Origin of social networks

One of the first social network projects was known as 6 Degrees (“6 degrees”). He aspired to put into practice the supposed theory of the 6 degrees of separation, which says that any person is related to another on the planet in a maximum of six degrees of the social bond, that is, counting six intermediate people.

This site was launched in 1997 and was a complete failure, in part because after connecting with acquaintances, there was nothing to do. 

However, those first community projects served as the basis for future proposals, such as miGente.com, AsianAvenue, or Match.com, some focused on finding a partner, others in chat rooms or real-time socialization.

In Latin America, the case of Latinchat (2000) was famous and in the world that of Blogspot (1998). The latter allowed the emergence of blogs or online newspapers, called “blogs”, around which communities and relationships were created.

Another important case was that of the debate and discussion forums, which proposed a slower way of exchange in writing on various topics, but which fostered a certain idea of ​​belonging, of a society organized around their tastes and interests.

The discussion forums proposed a slower mode of exchange in writing.

The explosion of the new millennium

With the arrival of the 21st century, the Internet showed its success as a socialization tool, since the first generation accustomed to its use from childhood had been born. 

Chats, blogs, and pages to make friends like Friendster (2002) or Orkut (2004), allowed a change in the pattern of socialization.

In addition, instant messaging services such as MSN Messenger (1999-2005) were added. Together these changes gave rise to the first long or short distance virtual relationships, courtships originated on the Internet, and even distance sexual practices. A true revolution in privacy.

The first commercially successful social network

The first social network that was a true commercial phenomenon was MySpace (2003). It allowed the creation of individualized and personalized profiles, which reflected the tastes and passions of each user, and which also allowed the exchange of opinions and content.

The peak of popularity of this social network was reached between 2000 and 2008. Then the decline began, although by 2011 it added 33.1 million visitors in the United States alone, ranking 91st in traffic on the entire World Wide Web.

The decline of MySpace began when its competitors based on photographic or image profiles, such as MetroFLOG, Fotolog, or similar, began to monopolize the public, offering a more agile and multimedia experience. Finally, in 2008, the arrival of Facebook to the global public buried the popularity of MySpace forever.

The Empire of Facebook

The Empire of Facebook

Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. Initially, it only involved young American university students, as it was an application to keep in touch with well-known people in that field, mixing instant communication with personal mini-pages and other similar services.

Its success was such that a year after its launch, it already had 2 million users in more than 500 American universities. It’s opening to the general public occurred in 2006.

Its popularity reached stratospheric and unsuspected levels, and many companies saw on Facebook the opportunity to measure their audiences, reach new ones, or promote themselves in a comfortable and focused way. 

This led the social network to be the most widely used in the world, Facebook reached 1.65 billion active users in 2016 and continues to grow.

With such success also came some problems, such as the severe accusations of betraying the confidentiality of its users’ information, collaborating with third parties for citizen espionage, and other claims that were not a little controversial and brought Zuckerberg himself to trial.

The Twitter Revolution

The Twitter Revolution

Another extremely important social media is Twitter (it’s founded in 2006), an innovation of the existing Odeo, owned by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone. 

It emerged as an internal messaging system for journalistic purposes, which allowed users to express themselves with 140 characters in a fast, dizzying, and constant way.

Twitter gained such popularity that today it has more than 500 million users who generate 65 million “tweets” daily, and handles more than 800,000 daily searches. 

Its influence on other media such as radio or television is notorious, functioning as “the Internet SMS”, given its immediacy and transience.

Incorporation to cell phones

Around 2007 the so-called “smartphones” were the definitive push to social networks. They made it possible to consult them at any time through applications downloaded on phones equipped with the ability to navigate the Internet.

In this way, the networks maximized their incorporation into everyday life. At the same time, telephones became tools for constant daily consultation, at levels that many even accuse of being addictive.

Other important social networks

Other important social networks

Other cases of important social networks are:

Youtube: A social network that consists of video broadcasts, from television, films, animations, and amateur material, which allows you to make comments and register your own channel, with favorite broadcasts and subscriptions.

Instagram: A social network initially designed for photographers and visual artists, which gained popularity among all types of users who share visual content.

LinkedIn: Social network specialized in the labor field, which acts as an intermediary between its users and the companies that have job offers, allowing them to write a CV online.

WhatsApp: WhatsApp Messenger, or WhatsApp is an American FREE messaging app cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service owned by Facebook Inc. WhatsApp was founded in January 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, former employees of Yahoo!

Pinterest: It is an American image sharing and social media service designed to enable saving and discovery of information (specifically “ideas”) on the internet. In 2012, Pinterest broke out to become a wildly popular site and app for collecting media across the Internet.

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Evolution of social networks

As they are incorporated into our daily lives, social networks have become more and more central in various fields, gaining importance, in multimedia resources and in responsibility. Many people use them to inform themselves or to be in contact with distant loved ones.

On the other hand, there are numerous interests involved in its operation. They have an important role in politics, economics, and culture, which is still a matter of debate in the world.

Timeline of social media

Here are the list of Social media timeline:

1997. Launch of 6 Degrees.

1998. Launch of Blogspot and popularization of the blog.

1999. Launch of MSN Messenger.

2000. Latin chat, one of the most popular chat sites in Latin America, appears.

2002. Launch of Friendster.

2003. Launch of hi5 and MySpace.

2004. Launch of Orkut and Facebook.

2006. Liberation of Facebook for the general public and launch of Twitter.

2008. Facebook becomes popular all over the world. Launch of Pinterest.

2010. Instagram appears on the market.

2011. Launch of Snapchat and Google+.


“Social network” in Wikipedia.

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