A Brief History Of 7 Social Networks (And How They Used To Look) [PHOTOS]

Hey, remember Friendster?

No? USENET, IRC, CompuServe, email and everything else that came before it aside, Friendster is generally considered the pioneer of modern social networking. Launching back in 2002, before even MySpace, Friendster became one of the first social networks to acquire one than one million users, reaching more than 100 million by 2008. And then, just like that, it all went a bit pear-shaped.

Still somewhat popular in Asia, Friendster reinvented itself as a games network, and now has just 8 million users. But how did it used to look? Like this.

So why did Friendster collapse? Largely because of MySpace, which quickly established itself as the de facto social network by the mid-2000s and, incredibly, surpassed Google as the most visited website in the U.S. in 2006. What’s even more incredible is that it did all of that despite once looking like this:

MySpace arguably established the concept of “friends” in social media, certainly in its modern use. Indeed, I didn’t realise I wasn’t popular until everybody’s pal on MySpace, Tom, unfriended me. Dark days. Of course, I got the last laugh, when MySpace crashed and Tom escaped with hundreds of millions of dollars. In your face, Anderson!

None of which has anything to do with our next throwback: LinkedIn.

Behold! This image is from 2002, but, today, LinkedIn has hundreds of millions of users, and, following a successful IPO, actually makes money. Everybody in the business world uses it, but nobody really knows why. You just kind of have to use it for some reason we haven’t quite determined. And perhaps never will. But, you know, use it. Just in case.

Up next, Facebook!

Known as The Facebook when it launched – you’ve probably seen the movie – Mark Zuckerberg’s creation was originally open only to Harvard students. That had limitations, of course, so it later expanded to other colleges before embracing the rest of the world, single-handedly wiping out MySpace in the process. And now generates billions in revenue. The audacity!

Hey, anyone remember Friendfeed?

I used to love Friendfeed. In fact, there’s still some cool things that it did that I miss even now, like the fabulous “best of day” area of the site that listed the most popular content over the past 24 hours so you didn’t miss anything. That was super useful, because it afforded you the luxury of dipping in and out of your social media experience, especially as Friendfeed was the master aggregator, happily absorbing the activity from your other social networks. But then Friendfeed was acquired by Facebook and it kind of all fizzled out.

Plurk? What on earth is that?

Launching back in 2008, Plurk was a bit like Twitter, but… worse. It had a few hardcore users but always felt a bit awkward to me. We’d kind of got used to content that scrolled up and down, so a left-and-right experience didn’t sit well at all with many users. And while Plurk is still going (kinda), it’s even more of a minnow now in the social space.

So what about Twitter?

MySpace was bad enough but it at least had the courtesy to be one of the first. Twitter had seen the horror of MySpace and still came up with this ghastly design. And, to be honest, despite a series of “updates”, Twitter’s look didn’t get much better until a couple of years ago.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down social memory lane. Who knows which social networks we’ll be looking back on fondly years from now? Instagram? Pinterest? Snapchat? Vine?

Google+? You might think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

(MySpace image: egg™ via Flickr.)