The Evolution of Social Media: How did we get here in the last 20 years
Social Media Day
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13 years after its launch, Facebook has now crossed 2 Billion monthly active users with as many as five new profiles created every second. People upload a total of 300 million pictures every day and the average user spends around 20 minutes on Facebook each day. Just thinking about the scale of that is staggering. Think how far this social media company has come in just 13 years that it has dominated social media and crept into our lives so much so that it’s become synonymous with living.

Yet it wasn’t Facebook that started the social media trend before Zuckerberg ensnared billions with his platform, Six Degrees became the first social media platform in 1997. It allowed users to create profiles and add their friends. Before that, people used Internet Relay Chat and thereafter ICQ. After Six degrees, the years approaching the millennium saw the advent of blogs and forums.

In 2001, Wikipedia was launched and while it doesn’t count as a social media platform, it plays an interesting part in today’s world where information about everything and anything is available at the portal. While many of you might be surprised by this fact but LinkedIn was launched in 2002 and was the first social media website dedicated to professionals. Around the same time, platforms such as Friendster, Hi5 and MySpace became popular until 2004.

Two major platforms that were going to dominate the social media industry, one resulting in the demise of other were launched. Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg was made live for Harvard students and Google-owned Orkut changed the way people interacted with each other. Orkut dictated the social media scene all around the globe for almost a decade till Facebook stole its thunder and Orkut was dissolved.

Video and Photo sharing platforms, YouTube and Flickr also came on the radar while Facebook started attracting users. 2006 saw the microblogging platform, Twitter making its debut followed by Tumblr and WhatsApp in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Facebook was growing rapidly by that time and had already garnered 150 million active monthly users in 2009. Twitter, on the other hand, had a steady growth in 7 million unique visitors using the microblogging website.

Instagram, the photo and video sharing social media platform, made its debut in the year 2010 and gained a million users by the end of the year.

Snapchat, instant image and video messaging app for iOS users was launched in 2011 followed by an Android app in 2012. Until then, 20 million pictures were being shared on the iOS app alone.

WeChat, a social media service from China was way ahead of its competitors in terms of the features it offered. The service allowed users to send a text message, make voice and video call, pay bills and transfer money using its own payments service along with news feeds and search options. Though it was jam packed with features that were still not available on many major players in the social media industry, WeChat remained very popular in China with over 90 percent users of the app hailing from there.

Facebook had pretty much started impacting people’s daily life by then and had revamped their chat interface and relaunched it as a separate app, Facebook Messenger, by mid-2011. Facebook Messenger is a chat application that lets users, message instantly to their peers and allows voice and video calls. The Messenger had already gained 600 million users by the end of 2015.

Cut to 2017, four out of the most popular, most used social media platforms are today owned by Facebook with an approximate 5 billion user base that spans Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Facebook itself.

To put it in perspective, our planet has a population of 7.5 billion people.

A lot has changed in the past 20 years, with Internet becoming accessible to most people, mobiles becoming ever so popular that around 7 billion of us use them, smart or otherwise. Social media platforms have developed ways of creating business opportunities and money, of course, having been actively influencing people’s opinions across the world. Facebook Live videos, Instagram Stories and unverified information surround us today, creeping the hell out of us. People maintaining a second self, a digital one that showcases its opinions and rants about day-to-day ongoings, criticising other “selves” for not thinking like them and spreading information as the messengers of humanity. For what?

To Connect! All this hullabaloo, just so you could be in touch with your best friend who’s moved to another city or the professor to tell them about your growth in the “real” world or maybe your parents, to make them proud of what you have become. Isn’t it?

Today, June 30, marks the eighth annual celebration of social media as the Social Media Day. Launched by Mashable back in 2010, Social Media Day celebrates global communication and connections between traditions and lifestyles across the world. While I’m not advocating that one social media platform alone has become way too ubiquitous, I think it’s time we introspect and really connect.