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Social Media Story Starts Long Before Facebook


If you think Social Media began with Facebook, or maybe MySpace, you should take a look at “The Complete History of Social Networkinjg — CBBS to Twitter” which is online at the website of the magazine, MacLife.

CBBS? Yes; the creation of the first Computerized Bulletin Board System by two Chicago area geeks in 1978 — that’s when it all started, according to writer Michael Simon in the 2-webpage overview of the development of social networking and social media.

Between those days and the social media-driven world decades later, Simon outlines many of the online developments that led from there to here. MySpace, Simon writes, “with deep pockets and a vast database” ultimately proved more successful than its predecessor, Friendster, “the first site that got everything right.” Friendster had come along in early 2003, a logical outgrowth of the shortlived (1997-2001) SixDegrees, which Simon calls “a bona fide precursor to the modern social networking sites.”

Social Media, Marketing, and Journalism Today

It’s a fascinating history, and one worth learning now that social media is, according to some experts, what’s driving news and information today. The highly respected Nieman Reports, which is one of the most scholarly of journals studying the journalism profession, devoted its Fall 2009 issue to looking at the impact social media is having on journalism.

In an introduction to the issue, Editor Melissa Ludtke notes that because social media is transforming “how people receive and share information”, it has become the job of the journalist to adapt to it.

However, Michael Simon, who wrote the MacLife article adds a cautionary note. “As a journalist, I certainly understand the place it has in the industry, but also realize the inherent danger therein. As more stock is placed on anonymous ‘sources’ from Twitter and the like, facts and integrity become increasingly blurred.” Simon made clear in an email that his true concern is less about the use of social media by “the casual observer, than the mainstream media outlets” that might be tempted to break news using only Facebook or Twitter as a sole news source.

Like journalists, marketers are another group of professionals who are analyzing the rise of social networks and studying ways to use them. E-business executive and author of the book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman, grandly calls social media “the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.” At his blog, also called Socialnomics, Qualman presents some jaw-dropping statistics about social media via YouTube videos:

Ward Christensenn and Randy Suess had become friends through their hobby and the club – CACHE (Chicago Are Computer Hobbyists’ Exchange) – that supported it. They spent a couple of snowy weeks in January 1978 working on the software (Christensen) and the S-100 computer (Suess) to run it on.

Simon’s article discusses how other bulletin boards – each with a specific purpose – followed their lead and “began to pop up across a variety of platforms” and how gradually the scope of the boards changed, and they began to offer users the chance to establish unique online identities. The article is a trip back through recent history and a perfect demonstration of one thing leading to another, and eventually to real social change.