Most contemporary accounts about the origin of today’s internet and social media point to the emergence of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) in 1969. This early digital network, established by the United States Department of Defense, enables scientists from four associated institutions to exchange hardware, software, and other data.
The direct precursor to today’s internet came into existence in 1987, when the National Science Foundation launched a nationwide digital network called the NSFNET.
Following is an account of how the social media industry began and grew:
- Geocities, the world’s first social networking platform, was launched in 1994. It allowed users to construct their own websites, customise them, and organise them into various ‘cities’ depending on the material they contained.
- com was launched the following year, allowing users to publish their own content and interact with others who have the same hobbies and interests.
- com and AOL Instant Messenger were launched in 1997, paving the way for the development of instant messaging. These networks allowed users to create a searchable profile, write a biography, share details about themselves, and chat with friends. AOL was likely the true forerunner to today’s social networking sites.
- Other social networking sites like Classmates, Friendzy, Hi-5 followed suit.
- Many of these networks were dating sites, although others like Classmates were more niche driven. Classmates was an immediate success as it helped users to connect with old classmates, friends, crushes, and bullies, and the platform has around 40,000,000 registered users up to this day.