Before there was Facebook, there were social media networks that came into play. They are evidence that some 20 years or so ago, people were already into social media and are building online presence through blogging, online networking, posting pictures and other files, etc.
It’s amazing how social media has evolved, and now we’re using only a handful of networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Still, it’s incredible to backtrack to the past and check out some of the social networks that help pave the way for today’s social media culture.
Yahoo! was one of the most widely used online services back in the day, around the late 1990s and early 2000s. People were so into Yahoo! mail and messenger – it was one of the early means of connecting with people online. Then came Yahoo360!, which is Yahoo!’s take on social networking. It went online in 2005, but it never really took off, and the company had to shut down the site in 2008. Like Google+, Yahoo360! was integrated with other Yahoo! online services including Shopping, Groups, Flickr, etc.
Status: Active (now marketing social messaging apps)
Founded in 2005, Bebo (blog early, blog often) is an creative baby of married couple Michael and Xochi Birch. It has more than 10 million users in the UK alone at the height of its popularity, even overtaking MySpace, and became the social media of choice for several countries such as Ireland. AOL bought Bebo for a whopping $850 million in 2008, a bad move actually. Two years later, sold Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners, which brought a few tweaks to the site for enhanced user experience. However, Criterion Capital Partners went bankrupt in 2013 and the Birches bought back Bebo for only $1 million, reinvented the site, transforming it from a social media network into a social app marketer for Android and iOS.
Status: Active (now a news aggregator site)
Digg used to be a very popular social news site, a product of an online experiment by Jay Adelson, Kevin Rose and a few others in 2004. It allows users to find and share social media news and other web content to their peers, and vote a page up (digg) or down (bury) on and off the site itself. By 2008, Digg hauled in more than 200 million visitors each year. However, the site underwent extensive changes after Adelson resigned as CEO in 2010 with Rose as OIC. The massive site overhaul came out pretty bad, prompting hostile reactions from former users and causing web traffic to go downward spiral. In 2012, Betaworks bought the Digg brand for $500,000, and started rewriting the site from scratch.
MySpace, headquartered in Beverly Hills, was started in 2003, and became very popular in the US and worldwide – MySpace even became the most visited site ahead of Google in 2006 and became the largest social media from 2005 to 2009, employing some 1,600 staff. MySpace was the platform of choice for users with strong passion for music and pop culture, and was the starting point of online sensations and now famous stars such as Colbie Caillat, Lily Allen and Katy Perry. However, Facebook immediately surpassed the site in terms of unique visitors and number users via its new and exciting features. Today, MySpace is co-owned by Specific Media Group and Justin Timberlake, employing 200 staff. The new owners re-launched the site as the bridge connecting new artists to their fans, featuring music mixes, videos, and radio stations among others.
Status: Active (blog hosting)
As the name suggests, LiveJournal is a social networking site that offers users a platform to create online blog entries. Brad Fitzpatrick created the site in 1999 as a way of virtually updating his friends. The site is now owned by SUP Media, a Russian media company, but is operated in San Francisco, California as LiveJournal, Inc. although its product development and design have since been moved to Russia in 2009. Despite its popularity in Russia, LiveJournal is available in 33 languages and is used by several users worldwide.
Status: Active (blog hosting)
Created almost at the same time as LiveJournal, Xanga enables users to keep several blogs (weblog, miniblog, photoblog, videoblog, and audioblog) and, at the same time, share their profiles with other users. It began as a venue for sharing book and music reviews, but has since then expanded to include just-about-anything-under-the-sun topics. The site has just launched the 2.0 version of the site.
Status: Active (acquired by Tagged)
Launched in 2003, Hi5 became the close runner-up to MySpace in terms of popularity back in the day. It was the third most popular social network in 2008, but newly appointed CEO Bill Gossman redesigned the site as a gaming platform in 2009 and purchased social gaming company Big Six in 2010. However, in 2011, the site was acquired by social network and dating site Tagged, nka IF(WE), and has since returned to its original design as a social networking site. Hi5 is now marketed as “the social network for meeting new people” and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.
With the success of Facebook and other social media, Internet giant Google came up with its own social networking site, Google Buzz, launched in 2010. Buzz, being more like experimental, was retired after only a year, and was succeeded by Google+, which gained 10 million users in two weeks, 25 million in a month, and 40 million after a year. Nevertheless, experts say that sign ups were merely incidental, where users incidentally visit the site after signing up for other Google services, particularly Google mail (Gmail). Despite the number of users, Google+ user engagement is very low, and the site never surpassed Facebook until now.
Friendster was a social networking service website based in Malaysia, and went live in 2002. It was the social media of choice for many Filipinos, making use of the site’s features for creating profiles, contacting other members, sharing web content and media files. It also served as a platform for meeting new friends and prospect dating partners. Known as the “grandfather” of social networks, Friendster’s popularity ultimately came to an end when users started shifting to other boats such as MySpace, Facebook, etc. Google initially offered to acquire Friendster for $30 million in 2003, but was turned down. In 2010, the site reported 8.2 million users, but had to undergo an overhaul as a social gaming platform in 2011 with 155 million registered users. Friendster the online gaming site however had to take a break and informed the online community it’s pausing its services effective June 14, 2015.
Status: Active (e-shopping)
Launched in 2004, Multiply seemed like a social networking genius because it connected people with their “real-world” network, and not just some fake or virtual friends. Members were required to specify their relationship with other members to distinguish direct contacts. It had more than 11 million members during its heyday, but diverted to online shopping in 2012, with its headquarters moved from Florida to Jakarta, Indonesia. Multiply was mainly a blogging site, coupled with media sharing and storage services. It did not, however, contain a profile page. As an e-commerce site, it had more than 2 million monthly visitors from the US alone in 2012. Still, Multiply could not sustain its operations and officially shut down the site in 2013.
I’m probably one of the very few people who remember and even used this site. It was very plain, with an interface that looked like a web design experiment. However, it offered some very important social media features such as profile page, blogging page, and comments or messaging section. A friend of mine told me a Filipino created the site. It was the first social media I used, but then I started blogging heavily, opting for blogspot (blogger), and moved on to using MySpace, Friendster, Multiply and then FB for my social media activities.
Do you recognize any of these social networking websites? Have you used one or more of them at some point? If so, tell us your experience, perhaps good or bad memories with these social media sites. It would be fun to reminisce the good old days with these once-popular-but-not-anymore social networking sites.