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The Evolution of Social Media

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Social Media has had a relatively short but highly eventful history. Though its future is as unpredictable as its existence was, it is interesting to examine its antecedents and milestones. Of course, we couldn't hope to cover every event and every page in its history, but in this presentation, we attempt to bring you the broad strokes of the evolution of social media.

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									The History of Social Media

Though not a social network in the strictest sense, Usenet was the first online service to link people with similar interests, allow them share news and information, and provide a place for them to unite.

Sixdegrees was the first modern social networking site. Unfortunately, no one really understood the concept, and it failed to garner the audience it needed to stay afloat.

The first highly successful social networking site, Friendster was a victim of its own popularity: when it exploded, servers buckled under the strain, users were kicked en masse for TOS violations, and they flocked to other sites, leaving behind one of the internet's biggest ghost towns.

Let the explosion begin. MySpace made a huge breakthrough by capitalizing on rumors that Friendster would become a pay site, and by marketing to a younger demographic. It’s lost some steam since, but not before a huge cashout for the founders.

With the groundwork laid, sites offering companion services like Flickr began to crop up. Facebook also began, but rather than throwing open the doors to all, it focused on specific communities of High School students.

With the popularity of MySpace in full swing and various sites syndicating content to it, the next natural step was streaming video generated by users. Along came YouTube, and suddenly everyone was discussing video on the internet and two young entrepreneurs were substantially richer.

With so many advances, social media was primed to break out of it’s limited space on the Internet. With the advent of Twitter, many new concepts began to emerge: presence apps, micro-blogging, SMS integration, and many other new things that Twitter brought made social media much more promising.

With too many social media sites to keep track of and many new sites thinking thoroughly outside the box, the next step was aggregation. Friendfeed and other sites like it collected feeds from other sites; rather than hosting content, they bring it all together.

The party couldn’t last forever, and when advertising revenue began to dry up, many social media sites suffered. One of the biggest failures turned out to be YouTube, which could not turn a profit despite its massive user base. Late 2008 saw layoffs across the web industry, with little hope for a speedy recovery.

With the climate as it is, it’s hard to tell what’s next for social media. Certainly, many companies that appeared to be in good stead months ago will not be around in a few months. Of course, this sort of culling may be bad for the industry, but it is good for the consumer: only the services that provide real value will endure or emerge.


								
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