There were sitcoms before Friends, burgers before McDonalds, and even cats before memes. The same can be said for social media.
There were many walks of social life in the years BF (Before Facebook), and it’s important to understand where we came from in order to understand how we got here, and where we’re going. Taking a trip down memory lane can help us identify social media trends, and it will show us which platforms are likely to become fruitful advertising opportunities in the future, and which are not.
So, let’s recap the best pre-Facebook ‘Facebooks’ uncovering what made them great and what made them fall from grace.
Founded in 2002, Friendster was one of the most exciting platforms around before Facebook. It died in 2006, was resurrected into a social gaming site in 2011, then fell apart again in 2018. But how did it come to such a sour ending?
During its heyday, Friendster was available around the world and gained over 90 million registered users by 2014. In 2008, it boasted more unique visitors than any other social network in Asia.
Friendster was there to help you connect with pals, safely organise dates, and make new friends. It enabled you to connect with people who had similar interests, which made Friendster extremely addictive for most users, helping the social network to soar in popularity.
Unfortunately, the site couldn’t handle that surge, which resulted in numerous site crashes – ultimately forcing its users to move to Myspace. Friendster’s users were falling out-of-love with the platform. Friendster’s crisis shows how important it is for your business to understand what users are saying about your brand online, which you can do by using social listening tools.
Launched in May 2003, LinkedIn is older than YouTube, Facebook, and the song ‘Yeah!’ by Usher. Offering one of the first social networks purely for professionals, LinkedIn burst onto the business scene and hasn’t looked back since.
LinkedIn gained almost 5,000 members after just one month of full operation, which is hardly surprising given that its co-founder, Reid Hoffman, previously earned his stripes at Google, eBay, and PayPal.
Today, LinkedIn has over 660 million users across the globe, and is currently aiming to break the 3 billion-user mark.
The one that got away, Myspace is the pre-Facebook social network site that everyone remembers. Founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolf learned from Friendster’s mistakes and prioritised Myspace’s scalability in order to avoid the same fate as Friendster.
The tactic paid dividends, with Myspace successfully supporting over 75.9 million unique users during its peak in 2008, becoming the most visited website in the world. People loved Myspace for its customizability (albeit with some basic HTML knowledge required) and affiliation with music – remember, you could embed your favourite song on your page, which wasn’t possible on any other social network at the time.
That peak quickly turned into a steep descent, with millions of Myspacers migrating to Facebook from 2008 onwards. Facebook was easier to use and it didn’t require any HTML coding – all you had to do was quickly sign up and add friends.
The San Francisco-based Hi5 said hi to our screens in 2003, becoming hugely popular in Latin America, Mongolia, Tunisia, and Romania. At one point, it was the second most popular social network site in the world in terms of traffic, after Myspace.
Unsurprisingly, Hi5 provided a ‘virtual high-five’ feature. But there was more to it than that: you could give away different types of ‘fives’, including warrior fives, crush fives, teammate fives, and many more.
Hi5 exists today as an app that’s optimized for chatting with nearby people, in a similar fashion to Tinder. Hi5 has survived thanks to its flexibility, proving that adaptability in the social networking space is vital for maintaining success online.
Named after the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept – the idea that all the people on the planet are no more than six social connections away from one another – SixDegrees was one of the very first social networking sites to follow the format we know today.
On this platform, which was founded in 1997, you could send messages and post bulletin board items to your list of friends, family, and acquaintances. This style of networking helped inspire future generations of social networks like Myspace, and indeed Facebook.
SixDegrees is the oldest dog here by some way, but the limited internet connectivity in the late 90s couldn’t keep up with SixDegrees’ new tricks. The platform was sold in 1999 and then shut down two years later.
Facebook changed the face of the digital world from 2004 onwards, and now boasts over 2.5 billion active monthly users. However, diving into the long history of social networks proves one thing: there are always shinier and brighter products waiting around the corner.
Will Facebook survive the onslaught from the likes of Pinterest and TikTok? We’ll have to wait and see.
Need a social media marketing agency? With Modern Marketing Partners as your social media marketing partner, you can expect increased brand awareness, higher engagement, and ultimately, a boost in leads and sales. Contact us today to take your social media marketing to the next level!