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Social media is simply a place where people freely interact, and share information about their lives online. These interactions can take place in a variety of ways, with words, videos, audio, and images being the most prevalent. The history of social media is longer than you may think though, with the first hints showing up in the 1970s.

From blogs to microblogs, message boards and forums, social bookmarking, taggings, news, podcasts, content and video sharing, wikis, and virtual worlds we're all experiencing life in a more digital, social way.


CompuServe becomes the first major commercial Internet provider for the United States public. Using dial-up, it dominated the market into the 1980s, and remained a major competitor until the 1990s.


The first email was delivered by Ray Tomlinson, while he was working for ARPANET. He doesn't remember what the first message was, though he thinks it was something mundane such as QWERTYIOP, not realizing how big of a moment this was.


Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, two Chicago computer hobbyist create the first bulletin board system. Dubbed the CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System), it became the framework that countless message boards that would come after.


Usenet started, as an early bulletin board system designed to connect the University of North Carolina and Duke University.


Prodigy, and online service provider was introduced. It grew to become the second largest service provider in the US, with 465,000 subscribers compared to CompuServe's 600,000. In 1994, Prodigy lead sales of dial-up connections to the World Wide Web (WWW), and hosting services for websites. It was resold multiple times, and is now a part of AT&T.


The American Online (AOL) service launched.


Tim Berners-Lee, a British engineer began his work at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research, located in Switzerland), on, what was to become the world wide web.


Tripod launches as a community for college students and young adults online.


CERN donates the WWW technology to the world.

Students at the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) reveal the first graphical browser, Mosaic. Web pages as we know them today are born.

More than 200 web servers are online at this point.


Beverly Hills Internet (BHI) starts GeoCities, allowing users to create their own sites modeled after types of urban areas. GeoCities would cross the one million member mark by 1997. There were nearly 38 million user web pages on GeoCities before it was shut down for US users in 2009. Yahoo, which launched as a major search provider and index in 1994 owns GeoCities today, and offers it only as a web hosting service for its Japanese users.

More than 1,500 web servers were online in 1994, and people started to refer to the internet as the Information Superhighway.

Earthlink started up as an online service provider.


Newsweek publishes an article titled "The Internet? Bah! Hype Alert: Why Hyperspace Isn't, and will never be, Nirvana."


The web hits its one million site mark.

Blogging begins to become prevalent. lets users make their own profiles, and list their friends.

AOL Instant Messenger lets users chat online.

Blackboard is founded as an online course management system, helping teachers and educators.


Google launches as a major search engine and index.


Friends Reunited, one of the first social networks to become prominent, was founded in the UK to relocate previous friends from school.


The bubble burst, sending stock prices of online businesses into a downward spiral.

At this point, there are 70 million computers connected to the internet.


Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia and the worlds largest wiki was started.

Apple starts selling its iPods.


Friendster was opened to the public in the US, and grew to three million users in three months.

AOL reached 34 million users.


MySpace launches as a close on Friendster.

Linden Lab opens the virtual world, Second Life, to the internet.

LinkedIn was started as a social network for business professionals.

There are now over 3 billion web pages.

Apple introduces its music service, iTunes.


Facebook starts as a social network for students at Harvard. It was originally referred to as the college version of Friendster.

MySpace surpasses Friendster in monthly page views.

Podcasting begins.

Flickr, an image hosting and sharing site, opens to the internet.

Digg starts as a social network news site, letting users share stories found across the internet.


Bebo (short for Blog Early, Blog Often) starts.

News Corporation, a media company owned by Robert Murdoch buys MySpace.

Facebook launches a version for high school students.

Friends Reunited, with 15 million members, is sold to British television company ITV.

YouTube begins as an easy way to store and retrieve videos.

There are now more than 8 billion web pages.


MySpace is the most popular social networking site in US.

Twitter is launched as a microblog, allowing users to send 140 character messages known as tweets.

Facebook membership is expanded, and opened to anyone over the age of 13.

Google had indexed more than 25 billion web pages, 400 million daily queries, 1.3 billion images, and more than a billion Usenet messages.


Microsoft buys a stake in Facebook.

Facebook initiated Facebook Platform, letting third party developers create apps for the site.

Facebook launches its Beacon advertising system, which exposes user purchase activity. Beacon sends data from external websites to Facebook, so targeted ads could be presented. The group and many others protested this as an invasion of privacy. Beacon is shut down in 2009.


Facebook tries unsuccessfully to buy Twitter.

Bebo is purchased by AOL, and is later resold as an relatively unsuccessful social network.


Facebook passes MySpace as the most used social network in the world with nearly 200 million monthly visitors, nearly twice that of MySpace.

Twitter breaks a major news story about a plane crash in the Hudson River. The New York Times later reported a user on a ferry had sent a tweet, "There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."

Unfriend is the New Oxford American Dictionary word of the year.

Microsoft's Bing joins Yahoo and Google as major search engines on the internet.

ITV sells Friends Reunited to Brightsolid Media.

25% of the worlds population is estimated to use the internet.

Google sees over one trillion unique URLs, after eliminating duplicate entries.


Facebook sees rapid growth and climbs to 400 million users, while MySpace declines from its peak of 75 million users to 57 million.

Google launches Buzz, to compete with Facebook and Twitter. In the first week, millions of gmail users reportedly created 9 million posts.

Apple releases their iPad tablet.

AOL sells Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners

The DNC advertised for a social networks manager to manage President Barack Obama's Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace account.

The number of internet users grows to 1.97 billion, or ~30% of the world population.

Instagram, an image sharing site that was bought by Facebook in 2012 launches.

The internet passes newspapers as the primary way Americans get their news.


Social media becomes accessible from nearly anywhere, and has become an integral part of our daily lives. Facebook reaches 550 million users, 65 million daily tweets are sent on Twitter, and 2 billion video views every day on YouTube.

Public sharing of so much information causes concerns over privacy.

Apple introduces Ping, a social network for music that's integrated into iTunes.

Both MySpace and Bebo are redesigned and updated to try and compete with Facebook and Twitter.


2 billion people around the world use the internet and social media.

The top ten social networks are Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, MySpace and Wikia.

More than half of adults 25-34 use social media at the office, and a third of young adults 18-24 use social media in the bathroom. All use social networks to stay connected, be informed, and for entertainment.

Advertisers look to social likes to increase brand visibility.

Facebook reaches one billion users.

Apple closes Ping, and improves iTunes.


YouTube tops one billion monthly users, with 4 billion video views per day. It launches paid channels as a way to provide content creators with another means of earning revenue.

Yahoo purchases Tumblr, a blogging social network with 170 million users and 100 million blogs.

There are 156 million blogs. Blogs, online videos, and podcasts are a staple of internet marketers.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station regularly tweeted live from space to a global audience.

Featured Image Courtesy of Jen Cozzette