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75 years of Independence: Looking back, looking forward on how social media evolution has touched lives

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 15-08-2022 Ritarshi Banerjee
© Provided by The Financial Express

The evolution and development of social media is filled with human desires. From establishment of different communication forms to innovations in the digital technology space, it gives anecdotes to nurture personal connections. Most people define social media as the ability to use Internet to establish relationships but over the years, we have seen how social media has played a part in changing lives. 

The inception of social media dates all the way back to 1844, when the concept was restricted to dots and a telegraphic machine. Rise of social media started in the year 1969 when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was found, through which scientists of four universities shared hardware, software, and other forms of data, among themselves. In 1986, National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled the digital network NSFNET to handle mass early Internet traffic. During 1990 and 1991, NSFNET was redrafted as a non-profit body and profit subsidiary to ensure commercial development of the network. Later, in 1997, the first social media platform of this world went live.

On August 15, 1995, telecommunications company Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) unveiled the first public internet service in India, in the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. The company added 10,000 users in the first six months of its launch.

Birth of social media sites

Around the 1980-90’s, growth of Internet enabled the foundation of online communication services such as CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy, which provided its uers with services such as electronic mail (email) based communication, bulletting board texts, real-time online chats, among others. 

As a result, social network based service Six Degress marked the birth of social media platforms in 1997, followed by online-gaming network Friendster in 2001. In 1999, websites and blogs were given a new meaning with the development of publishing sites LiveJournal and Blogger. Professional networks based website Linkedln came into existence in 2002, which garnered more than 675 million users by 2020. Social networking site MySpace was launched in 2003, which got overtaken by Facebook in 2008, in terms of popularity. Technology company Google made its own attempts to enter the social media ecosystem through the launch of Google+, but it came to an end after private information of around 500,000 users was breached.

In India, emergence of Internet took place through email, followed by the launch of Orkut in 2005. The social networking site was created for people to have a redefined way to establish connections and share pictures, which marked the birth of social media presence in India.

Social media presence, today

In today’s world, the social media landscape is being filled with a range of services to suit the needs and wants of more than five billion mobile device users worldwide. An overview of social media networks, which are present today, is given below:

Facebook: Launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, a former Harvard and current CEO, the platform has close to 1.7 billion users. According to insights by Pew Research, around 69% of US adults are part of the network. In October 2021, the company renamed itself to Meta, with the aim to build the metaverse.

Reddit: Founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian in 2o05, its reported 300 million users has transformed the site into a social commentary platform.

Twitter:  With its inception in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, 22% of US adults became Twitter users by 2020, as stated by Pew Research.

Instagram: Launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom as a photo sharing site and purchased by Facebook in 2012, the platform has more than one billion users worldwide.

Snapchat: Founded in 2011 by former Stanford students, Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy, the video-sharing platform introduced the concept serialised short-videos to provide informative digital effects

Customer experience for social media platforms started with desktops or laptops and then shifted to mobile phones and tablets. Through the expansion of cellular service and high-speed wireless Internet, “smartphones” came into existence. Apple’s first Iphone, launched by Steve Jobs in 2007, enabled a community approach towards development of social media platforms. Through powerful in-phone cameras, the transition of mobile applications to videos and images happened. Various companies also benefited from the social media development as they started to place advertisements on different platforms, and benefit from the utility out of social media presence. From the perspective of market based professionals, development of social media provided them access to data about consumers’ demographics, purchase habits, among others.

Future of social media platforms

In the next phase of social media development, business models of various kinds are expected to be shaped. Questions with regard to monetisation methods, adaption by end users, and development of audience base, related to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, among others, will determine the the next step in social media evolution. Social media is expected to be based on the imagination and creativity of stakeholders. 

With the implementation of metaverse, through technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (VR), benefits of social media platforms is expected to be available in a three dimensional pattern for users to engage and interact in a different way. Through virtual avatars, social media presence will be an immersive future to look forward to.

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