Whenever I’m asked to give a brief history of social networking or social media, I start by letting the audience know that these activities and tools aren’t a new phenomena that developed with the launches of sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. In fact, the history of social media goes back to humans gathering around campfires and sharing stories or painting history on cave walls. Any activities where humans share stories and influence others can pretty much be considered social networking and the tools they used (words, paint, etc..) were their social media. Smoke signals, tribal drums, backyard barbecues….all social networking that used different types of social media.
The history of online or digital social media is obviously a more recent occurrence, which began as we determined that computers could be used to connect people. Below is in an interesting infographic from the onlineschools.org detailing some of the major events in online social media. While I like many of the key events and dates that they have chosen, I do think they missed a major set of milestones by skipping from 1978 to 1994 without even mentioning the CompuServe, AOL, and Prodigy wars. These three online services, each offering group discussions, played a critical role in bringing affordable Internet service to the homes of Americans and really brought online conversations to the mainstream.
Obviously, a comprehensive history would be impossible in a single infographic, and I commend the authors for compiling the content, but I do think this oversight was a pretty big one.
See any other major gaps? I’d be interested to hear thoughts and comments on how we could improve this timeline to be more comprehensive.