In today’s world, where technology and social networks dominate much of our daily interactions, it is hard to imagine a time when these concepts did not exist. However, there was a time in history when the idea of a social network was completely unknown, and everything changed with the emergence of the first social network.
Origins of the First Social Network
The first social network dates back to the 1990s, when the Internet began to expand beyond academic and military institutions to reach the general public. It was then that a pioneering website called “SixDegrees.com” emerged, founded by Andrew Weinreich in 1997. This site was the first platform that allowed users to create profiles and list their friends, inspired by the “six degrees of separation” theory, which holds that anyone on Earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than six intermediaries.
Operation and Features of SixDegrees.com
The operation of SixDegrees.com was quite simple. Users registered, created personal profiles and then could send friend requests to other users. Once a connection was established, they could interact through messages and comments on their friends’ profiles.
Although SixDegrees.com was pioneering in its approach, it also had limitations. The platform failed to reach a critical mass of users and eventually closed in 2001. However, its legacy would be the seed for the development of future social networks.
The Development and Popularity of Social Networks
After the closure of SixDegrees.com, other platforms began to emerge with new proposals and improved features. In 2002, “Friendster” appeared, which achieved significant success in Asia and was the first to coin the term “social network”. Then, in 2004, two platforms emerged that would mark a before and after in the history of social networks: “Facebook” and “MySpace”.
“MySpace” quickly gained popularity, becoming the world’s largest social network in 2006. However, it was soon surpassed by “Facebook”, founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates at Harvard University. Facebook’s simple and clean interface, as well as its initial focus on connecting college students, made it highly attractive to a wider audience. Before long, Facebook expanded to other universities, opened its doors to anyone over the age of 13, and became the global giant we know today.
Impact of Social Networking on Society
From the emergence of the first social network to the explosion of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, social networks have revolutionized the way we communicate, connect and share information. They have blurred geographic and cultural barriers, allowing people around the world to interact and share experiences.
However, they have also posed new challenges. Social networks have been the subject of debate due to issues such as data privacy, the spread of fake news and technology addiction. The way people interact online has also influenced interpersonal relationships and self-perception.
Historical Background: The Precursors of Social Networking
The historical background of social networking goes back much further than most people might imagine. Although the digital platforms we know today are relatively new, the concept of connecting with others and sharing information has been an intrinsic part of human nature for centuries. Below, we will highlight some of the important precursors that contributed to the development of modern social networks:
1. Bulletin Boards: In the 1970s, electronic bulletin boards were one of the earliest forms of online social interaction. These boards allowed users to leave public messages for other users, creating a space for communication and information exchange.
2. Online Communities: Throughout the 1980s, the first online communities were created, such as “The WELL” (The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) in 1985. These were spaces where users could interact through discussion forums on various topics.
3. BBS (Bulletin Board Systems): BBS, or Bulletin Board Systems, were computer systems that allowed users to connect and communicate over telephone lines. They emerged in the 1970s and became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, offering online interaction, games and file downloads.
Geocities: In 1994, Geocities was launched, a web hosting service that allowed users to create their own web pages and connect with other users through themed “neighborhoods. It was a rudimentary way to share interests and knowledge.
5. SixDegrees.com: Founded in 1997, SixDegrees.com was the first platform that allowed users to create profiles and make connections with their friends. Although initially successful, it closed in 2001 due to a lack of active users.
6. Friendster: Launched in 2002, Friendster was the first platform to coin the term “social network”. It allowed users to create profiles, add friends and share content. It was especially popular in Asia.
7. MySpace: Founded in 2003, MySpace allowed users to customize their profiles and connect with friends through messages and comments. At its peak, it was the world’s largest social network.
8. Facebook: Launched in 2004, Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his classmates at Harvard University. Initially focused on connecting college students, it later opened up to a wider audience and became the most influential and successful social network in the world.
This historical background paved the way for the emergence of the modern social networks we know today. Each platform was a step forward in the evolution of how people connect and share information online, ushering in a new era of human communication.
The Pioneer: The Platform That Started It All
The pioneer that laid the groundwork and started it all in the world of social networking was “SixDegrees.com”. Founded in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich, SixDegrees.com is considered the first online platform that allowed users to create profiles and connect with friends in a digital environment. Its name comes from the “six degrees of separation” theory, which suggests that anyone on Earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than six intermediaries.
Features and Operation of SixDegrees.com
The operation of SixDegrees.com was revolutionary for its time. Users could register on the platform and create personal profiles that included information such as name, photo and a list of their friends. The platform allowed users to send and receive friend requests, allowing them to connect with other users and expand their digital social networks.
Once users connected with each other, they could interact in a variety of ways, such as sending messages to each other and leaving comments on their friends’ profiles. This online social interaction was a completely new concept at the time and paved the way for what would later become an essential component of modern social networking.
Legacy and Closure
Despite being an innovator in its time, SixDegrees.com was unable to sustain its success over the long term. The platform reached a significant number of users, but never managed to reach a critical mass that would consolidate it as a social network with global reach. In addition, at that time, internet connection was not as widespread and accessible to all as it is today, which limited its growth.
After a few years of operation, SixDegrees.com closed its doors in 2001. Although its life was relatively short, its legacy was momentous, as it laid the groundwork for the future social networks that would dominate the digital age.
The impact of SixDegrees.com can be seen in the development of subsequent social networks. The idea of creating profiles and connecting with friends online proved to be a powerful and engaging concept for people. This inspired the emergence of new platforms, such as Friendster, MySpace, Facebook and many others that later became pillars of online communication and social interaction.
Stories and anecdotes: Featured users of the first social network
Although the first social network, SixDegrees.com, did not achieve the same fame and notoriety as some of its successors, there were prominent users who participated in the platform and contributed to giving it life and content. Although there are no extensive records of famous users on SixDegrees.com, some stories and anecdotes have been shared about notable people who interacted on the platform in its early years. Here is an interesting anecdote:
Kevin Bacon and the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon:” One of the most famous stories related to SixDegrees.com involves renowned actor Kevin Bacon. As we know, the website got its name from the “six degrees of separation” theory, which holds that anyone on Earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than six intermediaries. Kevin Bacon is known for his prolific career in film and for having worked with a wide range of actors.
A group of college students at Albright College in Pennsylvania took the idea from SixDegrees.com and created the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game in 1994. The idea was to show that Kevin Bacon could be connected to any other Hollywood actor through six or fewer movies they had both worked on. This became a meme and became popular in pop culture. When SixDegrees.com launched in 1997, people began using it to test the theory, looking for how to connect with Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less through their film collaborations. This anecdote became a symbol of the interconnectedness and reach that social networks can have.
Importantly, while SixDegrees.com did not have the same level of celebrity users and celebrities as later social networks, it did contribute to the consolidation of the “six degrees of separation” theory and served as a precursor to what was to come. In addition, the idea of connecting with other users and exploring how social contacts and relationships intertwine has been an interesting and fun part of social networking in general.
Technical Aspects: How the first social platform was built
Building the first social platform, SixDegrees.com, involved a combination of technological and design concepts that, at the time, were innovative and revolutionary. While the technology behind SixDegrees.com may seem basic compared to modern platforms, it was an important step in the evolution of social networking. Here are some key technical aspects involved in the creation of SixDegrees.com:
Databases: To store user information, their profiles and connections, it was necessary to use databases. These databases stored and managed the information efficiently to allow fast data retrieval and interaction between users.
Programming Languages and Backend Technologies: For the development of the backend of SixDegrees.com, programming languages and technologies such as PHP, Java or other server languages were used. These languages allowed handling the website logic, processing user requests, storing and retrieving data from the database, and handling authentication and security of the site.
Authentication and Security: To ensure user privacy and security, SixDegrees.com needed to implement secure authentication systems for login and protect sensitive information.
Connectivity and Networking: SixDegrees.com needed to be connected to the Internet and maintain online servers so that users could access the platform and communicate with each other. Connectivity and server maintenance were critical for the platform to function properly and be available to users at all times.
Scalability: Although SixDegrees.com did not reach the level of massive success of modern social networks, it had to have a scalable infrastructure to handle the potential growth of users and ensure that the platform could handle the workload as more people joined.
Phoneia.com (July 29, 2023). The First Social Network: The Revolution that Changed the Internet. Recovered from https://phoneia.com/en/the-first-social-network-the-revolution-that-changed-the-internet/