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The evolution of social media

The evolution of social media

One of the biggest truths of our world today, and possibly a modern day tragedy in the opinions of some, is our constant dependence on the phenomenon of social media. The tools of social media have provided us with means to a constant stream of connection to any and every corner of the world. The global village has now shrunk into a continuous virtual circle of thoughts, opinions, promotions, interactions, cultural exchanges, enhanced experiences and most importantly, constant connectivity to a world that would have otherwise been an inaccessible oblivion for most of us. We can now electronically see and achieve with a few clicks in an invisible electronic space what a few years ago would have been an incomprehensible impossibility, and thus social media has a journey of its own that is just an pertinent as any other advanced form of technology.

Amidst the numerous definitions of social media, the more relevant one describes social media as a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content.
Social media in its basic functionality is an umbrella term that covers a group of web-based software applications, the content generated by users of those applications and the services that make these actions accessible to almost anyone who can reach a web browser. These include blogs such as Word Press, wikis such as Wikipedia, Social Networking sites such as the notorious Facebook, Virtual Worlds, and Online Reviews etc and are considered the heartbeat of the digital marketing age, an essential tool for value creation and consumer interaction for businesses thus creating a smaller and a more connected global village every day.

The advances in social media have made being connected to the world around us easier and more simplified than ever before, however, it didn’t all start that way. The internet made it possible to reach people around the world with merely a click of a button and social networking and all forms of media exploded into one of the biggest industries of our time, but if we take a stroll down the lane of history, forms of social media can be seen to be dated back to ancient China, Greece and Egypt, where smoke signals by day and fire beacons by night were the audio and visual methods of communicating across long distances. Drums were also often used to magnify voices for communication purposes. Descending to the 550BC, evidence of historic social media can be witnessed through the establishment of the postal service by horses and carriages in Iran, that were adopted globally till the 18th century when more advanced methods of communication emerged. However, the speed of communication was reliant upon how fast a horse could gallop or a ship could sail.

One the most recognized forms of social media during the course of its evolution was the invention of the Telegraph by Claude Chappe in 1792 to transmit and receive messages over long distances and eventually expanded to cover the whole globe. The telegraph paved the way for telephone networks. These in turn laid the foundations for the internet.

As technology progressed into the late 1800’s, the telephone was invented, and no means of communication has revolutionized the daily lives of ordinary people more than the telephone. It was a technology that simply sanctioned people to talk to one another over long distances. Credit for this invention is frequently disputed, and new controversies over the issue have arisen from time to time. Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, among others, have been credited with the telephone’s invention. The Bell and Edison patents, however, were ultimately triumphant and historically accredited.

Before the boom of the web 1.0, social media comprised of elements such as the BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) System in the 1970s, in the shape of internet forums that allowed users to log on to a computer network and interact with each other. Long before the Internet became accessible to the general public, people were hosting BBS systems, many of them focused on an interest group or local community. There was a reliance on phone lines and excessively slow modems, and whereas there was a lack of imagery and visual enhancement, software could be downloaded and uploaded. An example of a successful BBS is of the first virtual, self contained community called the WELL and in 1972, the first email was sent, with two computers sitting next to each other.

Social networking further developed via the likes of phenomena such as, where people could interact, build profiles and exchange information regarding news, travel, shopping and social hubs which made social communication one of the big draws for and attraction of online services.

Live journal is another example of an early social network in 1999, allowing users to work in a virtual blog- based community. AOL messenger was launched in 1997, popularizing instant messaging, such as the likes of ICQ, MSN messenger etc. Web 1.0 saw the birth of websites such as, which gave users the freedom to personalize their online experiences and publish content and interact with other users with similar interests.
The web 2.0 and the dotcom era, despite suffering the burst of the dotcom bubble in 2000, has assisted in the creation of an enhanced and a revolutionary modern line-up of social media. Content creation, sharing, publishing, generating, has never been as easier or popular. If a user has created a profile on Facebook, uploaded a picture of Flicker, uploaded a video on YouTube, streamed a video on Megalinks, commented on reviews on etc, then they have used the web 2.0 and generated content online. If the total population of the Earth (6.94 billion) is divided by the number of people of FaceBook (750 million) then one in every nine person is using this form of social networking. Businesses have also turned towards the promotional power and effective tools of social media, because as statistics show in terms of the impact of social networks on advertising, word of mouth is the popular option with 78% of customers, who trust peer recommendations on site, while only 14% trust advertisements.

The Hi5 social network appeared in 2003 and now claims more than 60 million active members, mostly in Latin America and if FaceBook was a country, it would be the 4th largest in the world after the US. It took the radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million; it took the internet four years to reach the same number of users and this trend is most likely to continue and thrive in the future. Social media, with its tools is assisting people in creating an easier and effective lifestyle and reach across the world through mediated experiences and sharing their lives and content with users across the globe, benefiting users in all capacities around the whole world. Social networks and social media websites continue to make changes and develop on a fairly regular basis, making social media dynamic, progressive and evolutionary.

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