The history of online social networking dates all the way back to the 1970s. Today sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are ten a penny, but were it not for the initial steps taken back when two computers were first networked together Facebook, Twitter et al would not exist.
In 1971 the world’s first email was sent. By today’s standards it wasn’t overly impressive; the two computers were sitting next to each other and were connected by wires. Today over 340 million ‘tweets’ are sent, and over 1 billion messages are posted on Facebook. This is a far cry from the early 70s where computers and its associated technology were seen as being only available to the privileged few. Whilst the world laughed at all the geeks and nerds sitting behind their screens in a darkened room over the next three decades, it was these same nerds manning the helm of what has turned out to be an almost unstoppable juggernaut of electronic social interaction.
It began with the Business Bulletin Boards in 1978 allowing users to exchange data over phone lines with other users. The template was rough and functionally unsound, but the idea was there and firmly in place. Copies of the world’s first internet browsers ended up being distributed by USENET, an early online business bulletin board. Did social networking aid in the birth of the internet? Or was it the other way round? Whatever happened, social networking and the internet are now completely interdependent on one another.
Online social networking is now seen as not only ‘cool’ but ‘essential’. It has become a way for people all over the world to stay connected to friends, family, work colleagues and more, whereas before it would not have been possible to do so. The explosion of smartphone and tablet technology in the late noughties has made social networking even more powerful with users constantly connected. Just take a look around whenever you’re on a train or walking down the street – virtually every other person will be texting or posting on their phone.
Facebook and Twitter both now have an imposing presence in the online markets solely due to the human need to connect and communicate. Whether or not this has been a bad or good thing is perhaps best left for another discussion, but like it or not, online social networking is here to stay.