The History of Social Media
Social Media

The History of Social Media

Have you ever heard anybody say something like the following:

“I remember a time before social media when the world was a simpler place.”

If so, then that person is a liar. Social media is more than 2,500 years old and has a long and rich history, right up to the present day.

Historical Social Media

The first form of social media, the sending of letters, dates back to around the 5th century BC. Letter sending remained the social media channel of choice for thousands of years until the emergence of the telegraph in the middle of the 19th century.

The telegraph fundamentally changed the nature of long-distance communication forever. From 1844 onwards, people could send messages to each other at light speed, dramatically reducing the time it took to carry out a conversation.


Computers didn’t become a part of the social media landscape until the invention of CompuServe in 1969. CompuServe was originally intended as a system that would network computers together using the existing phone system. Bit rates were slow, but by the 1980s, the company’s technology had become the backbone of the nascent internet, connecting more computers together than any other.

Neither their technology nor the later Department of Defense’s ARPANET was used for social media purposes directly. But both became pillars on which the social media experiments of the 1990s and 2000s would be founded.

Early Social Media Of The 1990s

Social media began to take off in the mid-1990s when the government permitted the internet to be opened up to the masses.The star of those early days was AOL Instant Messenger, a tool that finally allowed people to talk to each other in real time on the internet, no matter what the distance between them. Text chat was ideal because data rates were restricted by the amount of data you could send down a phone line, around 56 kilobytes per second.

AOL Instant Messenger

Modern Social Media

The first recognisable social media website was Six Degrees. Founded in 1997, the site had a bulletin board as well as the ability to message other members. The site shut down for the first time in 2000, despite hosting more than 3.5 million members at its peak.

Six Degrees Social Media Site

Many other social media experiments emerged in the late 1990s and early noughties, including the infamous Napster, MySpace, and LinkedIn. But it wasn’t until Facebook granted access to any user in early 2006 that social media suddenly became a household name.

MySpace LogoLinkedIn Logo
Facebook brought with it a host of improvements over previous iterations. It allowed users to do things more efficiently than ever before, such as engage in social gaming, upload photos, post events, and take control of their online image.

Twitter followed suit in 2006, launching a service that it hoped would allow people to share pithy comments at will.

The Present Day

The latest forms of social media, such as Facebook Live and Periscope, emphasise live forms of social media engagement. Social media continues to become more data-intense and up-to-the-minute. One thing is for sure: the future will be more connected than the past.

Periscope Facebook Live

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