A History of Social Network Sites
The Early Years According to the definition above, the first recognizable social network site launched in 1997. SixDegrees.com allowed users to create profiles, list their Friends and, beginning in 19 98, surf the Friends lists. Each of these features existed in some form before SixDegrees, of course. Profiles existed on most major dating sites and many community sites. AIM and ICQ buddy lists supported lists of Friends, although those Friends were not visible to others. Classmates.com allowed people to affiliate with their high school or college and surf the network for others who were also affiliated, but users could not create profiles or list Friends until years later. SixDegrees was the first to com bine these features. SixDegrees promoted itself as a tool to help people connect with and send messages to others. While SixDegrees attracted millions of users, it failed to become a sustainable business and, in 2000, the service closed.
Looking back, its founder believes that SixDegrees was simply ahead of its time (A. Weinreich, personal communication, July 11, 2007). While people were already flocking to the Internet, most did not have extended networks of friends who were online. Early adopters complai ned that there was little to do after accepting Friend requests, and most users were not interested in meeting strangers. From 1997 to 2001, a number of community tools began supporting various combinations of profiles and publicly articulated Friends. A sianAvenue, BlackPlanet, and MiGente allowed users to create personal, professional, and dating profiles — users could identify .
Friends on their personal profiles without seeking approval for those connections (O. Wasow, personal communication, August 16, 20 07). Likewise, shortly after its launch in 1999, LiveJournal listed onedirectional connections on user pages. LiveJournal’s creator suspects that he fashioned these Friends after instant messaging buddy lists (B. Fitzpatrick, personal communication, June 15, 2007) — on LiveJournal, people mark others as Friends to follow their journals and manage privacy settings. T Cyworld was started in 1999 and added SNS features he Korean virtual worlds site in 2001, independent of these other sites (see Kim & Yun, this i ssue). Likewise, when the Swedish web community LunarStorm refashioned itself as an SNS in 2000, it contained Friends lists, guestbooks, and diary pages (D. Skog, personal communication, September 24, 2007).
The next wave of SNSs began when Ryze.com was l — aunched in 2001 to help people leverage their business networks. Ryze’s founder reports that he first introduced the site to his friends primarily members of the San Francisco business and technology community including the entrepreneurs and investors beh ind many future SNSs (A. Scott, personal , communication, June 14, 2007). In particular, the people behind Ryze, Tribe.net, LinkedIn, and Friendster were tightly entwined personally and professionally. They believed that they could support each other without competing (Festa, 2003). In the end, Ryze never acquired mass popularity , Tribe.net grew to attract a passionate niche became a powerful business service , user base , LinkedIn and Friendster became the most significant, if only as “one of the biggest disap pointments in Internet history”.
Like any brief history of a major phenomenon, ours is necessarily incomplete. following section we discuss Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, three key In the SNSs shaped the business, cultural, and research landscape.
You may also like :