Almost immediately after man first appeared on earth, he began to band together with others for the security and fruits of teamwork that this bonding offered. In this crude and unplanned form social networking began. As time passed these groups became tribes, then villages, states and countries – all with the same aim of benefiting from their association. Along the way, people with more closely aligned interests formed guilds, brotherhoods and unions to enhance their personal aims and today they exist as Freemasons, Rotarians and other such groups.
Even until the late 20th century, these social networks were limited by the need to be in physical proximity to each other – a need that disappeared when the internet arrived. Social networking, as we understand it today, came into being at the beginning of the 1980s with the advent of the Bulletin Board Service or BBS. These BBS were operated by hobbyists who used them to promote their own interests and agendas.
These crude (by today’s standards) sites with only text were slow and not easy to access as most people had only dial up connections at that time but the forums they offered were the first networking sites.
Around the time of the BBS, a service called CompuServe also came into being: but it was aimed at business users who could share files and access news on it. CompuServe had one great innovation – it allowed users to send electronic messages to one another – the beginnings of easily accessed email. CompuServe became very popular and soon outgrew the limited business applications and went into the public domain, providing access to thousands of forums on a range of subjects to any who had a modem and phone line. America Online (AOL) soon appeared and offered members the facility of creating their own communities and searchable member profiles – innovation that left CompuServe far behind.
Yahoo was soon to follow with a host of networking facilities but the first modern social networking site was Classmates.com – a service that continues to today. Classmates.com permitted not just easy creations of communities but offered searchable member profiles that began the process of hunting for lost friends and locating like minded people to be new ones.
The concept caught on rapidly and the next stage was subject or demographic specific networking services like AsianAvenues.com that promoted networking among people with Asian interests and origins. The next obvious step, which soon followed, was open networking sites where anyone could create a community and locate both old and new friends to invite to join. Today Twitter allows for instantaneous real time networking and its growth potential seems endless: but it is just the latest stage in the ongoing story of social networking.