#ThrowbackThursday Social Media
Believe it or not, there were really popular Social Networks that existed before Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Do you remember any of them?
Personally, I distinctly recall using all of them (I’d happily stalk myself too if they hadn’t closed down), and I remember when I gradually began to move my attention to Facebook during Secondary School. But whatever happened to them? When did they know the writing was on the wall, and are they still live today? Let’s review.
I for one never used Friendster, but it feels wrong to discard it from our list without giving it an honourable mention since this was one of the first Social Networks created. Created in 2002 by Jonathan Abrams, its rise to fame could be put down to solely being the first in this area, but that would be an unfair generalisation considering they continued operating for 13 years.
Upon creation, other social networks followed such as MySpace & Hi5 in 2003 and Facebook in 2004. Their user base continued to grow in Asia, prompting a sale to MOL Global for $26m in 2009. An attempt to rebrand as a gaming site (sounds eerily similar to Hi5?) in 2011 did not do enough to keep their existing users, and it shut down for good in June 2015.
A school time classic. I think it was the social network we all used for a long time during years to 9–11. Did you know Bebo actually stood for Blog Early, Blog Often? Yeah me too. The UI now thinking back on it was very clunky; a massive never-ending page of writing, people writing a post on your page, and a couple of questionnaires. Oh, don’t forget how you could embed a video into the page too from YouTube to show what you were really into. I used to rinse all the Joga Bonita football commercials, and I even got distracted from this blog post to watch them again (they’re still timeless btw).
Well, Bebo was a huge hit in the UK, at one point apparently overtaking MySpace as the most used Social Network in our landscape. The original founders managed to sell the platform to AOL in March 2008 before the Facebook user heist and made something close to $600m in the sale.
Bebo temporarily closed down in August 2013, albeit unexpectedly without much warning as the platform closed for maintenance. Relaunches were attempted in a different way such as Bebo Blab, but this proved to be a nostalgic flash in the pan. Now Bebo is used as a way to stream live to Twitch, and all of its old features have now disappeared.
Did anyone else panic when they had a friend called Tom when they signed up? I did and found it very weird. MySpace was a hit worldwide, mainly in the US and even getting a major foothold in the UK too. Being in someone’s Top 8 friends was a massive deal (I’m sure some friendships even ended over this sensitive issue). MySpace was bought by NewsCorp in July 2005, and it looks like this is where it began to rapidly decline.
A lack of care was applied to the UI of the site; they began embedding different functions of all kinds without making it the best it could be. A jack of all trades you might say. A mixture of rapid ad monetisation schemes, poor user functionality, negative media coverage ranging from pedophilia to pornography and of course Facebook’s ascension to the top saw a huge drop-off of users at MySpace. The aftermath of this was a rebrand of MySpace after being sold to Time Inc. and now MySpace is used predominately for Music streaming and news related topics. Actually looks kind of slick if that’s what you’re into.
Are you going to leave me hanging with my hand in the air? Ok thanks. Hi5 was one site I used but, and I don’t know, why it didn’t seem to sit well with me. I found it to be often confusing and too much. It was a platform which was had standard uses such as commenting, adding friends and bulletin boards, but its uniqueness came from sending friends different types of high fives. Seriously, you could send all types such as Best Friend, Other Half, Nerd etc. If you accepted one, it appeared on your page, making it some kind of popularity measurement? Thank the heavens this didn’t catch on. Funnily enough, they were one of the first Social Networks where photo albums and tagging was introduced. It seems Facebook took this to another level on their platform instead and simply executed it better.
Hi5 is now focused on its gaming features, meeting new people and dating. It’s a success in the US and maybe surprisingly so, Latin America. Very odd and unexpected.
Not necessarily a social network, but it was our answer to communications for the majority of my childhood, from 2003–2010 let’s say. Coming home and talking to friends whilst doing homework on the internet, it was the ultimate distraction but everyone loved it. MSN was first created in 1999 (wow I feel old) and was a huge hit instantly. For those who were texters but couldn’t afford to pay 10p a message, this was your answer to expenses. Can you imagine paying that much to text someone now? The same applies to webcam functionality built in and this was before Skype was a thing.
Adding in evolving functions such as playing games like checkers, or bejeweled against your friend, or showing people what you were listening to displayed how cool you were. The Nudge function to get someone’s attention was particularly annoying but funny, and let’s not forget people who used to decorate the life out of their name by adding different types of emoticons at the start, random fonts for letters, and favourite lyrics or quotes to follow at the end. I always wondered how they put in so much effort to do that, all to make it to the top of someone’s contact list as the first person online. Plus, we all had that one person who was always set as away on MSN, or who was always online regardless of what ungodly hour it was.
Looking back, did we really have to log on each night after school to speak to the same people you see all day at school? Eventually, you’ll run out of shit to say. Unless the purpose of the convo was to talk to your school crush or gossip about people privately, which I’m sure we all did quite regularly. To think, if Facebook messenger wasn’t so problematic for a few years MSN would have been eradicated much earlier than it did. I still recall times I preferred to talk to people on MSN and not on Facebook as it was so unresponsive or messages wouldn’t send. MSN eventually closed its services for good in China, where its final pool of users was based, on October 31st 2014. RIP to one of the greats and giving us many memories of our childhood.