Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’ve been using social media for over a decade now. From the early days of Friendster and MySpace to the current craze of TikTok, I’ve seen the evolution of social media firsthand. As a technical writer, I’ve also had the opportunity to study the changes in social media platforms and how they’ve impacted our lives. In this article, I’ll be exploring the history of social media and how it has transformed from a simple way to connect with friends to a powerful tool for communication, marketing, and entertainment. Join me as we take a trip down memory lane and discover the fascinating evolution of social media.


The evolution of social media since the introduction of Friendster in 2002 has been arguably one of the greatest breakthroughs in communication technology. From that first version, followed by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to the more recent Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok – social media has revolutionized how people connect socially and professionally around the world. The broad reach has enabled individuals to express themselves in ways never before possible; and with it comes a deeper understanding of our cultural evolution.

This paper will explore the impact of this genre of technology on our lives throughout the past two decades. We will look at how user preferences have shifted from platform to platform over time; discuss some of the pros and cons; detail changes made by various platforms to stay competitive; and review new opportunities for businesses through this type of communication tool. Finally, we’ll explore some emerging trends that may shape up for social media going forward.

Pre-Social Media Era (1990s)

The pre-social media era can be seen as the starting point of the rise of communication technology. It all started in the 1990s with the launch of Friendster, a centralized online service that allowed users to connect with friends and to find new friends. This was a major shift in the way people interacted and it laid the groundwork for the major social media platforms we have today.


Friendster was the first major social networking service which made its debut in 2003. It allowed its users to showcase their talents and hobbies, develop relationships with people across the world, and create new communities in a largely virtual environment. Through Friendster, users could also share photos, utilize tools to create online resumes and personal profiles, as well as join various interest-based groups.

Initially funded by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Friendster experienced incredible popularity until tech giant Myspace unveiled the latter’s version of a similar platform in 2005. Subsequently, millions of Friendster’s visitors switched allegiance to Myspace over the subsequent years and Friendster slowly fizzled out – officially closing its doors in 2015 after twelve years of operation.

Despite this outcome, the massive success enjoyed by Friendster significantly contributed to building public acceptance for other leading social media platforms such as Facebook that we use today.


MySpace burst onto the scene in August of 2003, becoming the most visited website in the United States by 2005. Primarily used as an online entertainment platform, MySpace quickly became the premier place for young people to interact socially. By establishing user profiles, users were able to share photos, videos, messages and music on this social networking site.

MySpace offered a more interactive experience than its predecessors had, with users able to customize their page and control what they shared. The ability to easily create playlists of favorite songs made it an especially popular online music library. Through detailed profile information and customizable backgrounds, each MySpace page was tailored specifically to its user’s tastes, creating an individualized experience instead of a generic atmosphere like the one Friendster had provided.

Adding further levels of connection between users were groups that members could join or create and forums for discussion on different topics; forming communities within this digital world of MySpace helped further promote social interaction between individuals from all around the globe in ways that hadn’t been possible before. By 2006 it was estimated that shows booked by MySpace helped generate $15 million dollars’ worth of revenue per year. While still popular until 2008 when Facebook exceeded it in numbers, gradually fewer people visited MySpace until it later relaunched with a new design and began focusing more on serving as an entertainment hub rather than a fully functional social network.


LiveJournal, a free blogging and social media platform, was founded in 1999. It was created to help people express themselves by sharing stories, experiences and interests on the internet. Started as a primary tool for digital diarists, LiveJournal served as an integral part of social media growth before the advent of the big sites we know today.

Unlike many other popular platforms of its time, users could share their thoughts anonymously or under their own username – giving them a safe space to be open and honest without judgment or repercussion. People had the opportunity to create profiles that revolved around communities centered around a shared interest/topic or political affiliation. This gave way to conversations between strangers who shared common ideals and beliefs which let ideas spread further than ever before.

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Thanks to its innovative features like polls, quizzes and surveys – users could gather insightful feedback from friends for any purpose quickly – paving the way for quick data collection in the future.

LiveJournal ultimately paved the way for open conversations online by providing a platform that made it easier than ever before for people to join meaningful communities with their peers from all walks of life. Though short-lived, it left behind lasting cultural implications on how we communicate digitally that can still be seen today in SM platforms such as Reddit and YouTube.

Early Social Networking Sites (2000s)

Since its launch in 2002, Friendster was one of the first social networks and was created to help people connect with friends, family, and others with similar interests. It quickly grew in popularity, reaching over three million members by 2004.

As the 2000s progressed, numerous other social networks emerged, including MySpace and Orkut, and they eventually gave way to the major social sites still popular today such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let’s explore some of the early social networking sites and how they evolved.


Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and a few Harvard University students in February 2004. Originally known as The Facebook, the platform was created to connect Harvard students with each other, but it quickly expanded to other colleges and universities across the United States. As its popularity increased, it soon opened up to people of all ages and in particular has become an incredibly popular site among young adults.

When users sign up for Facebook, they create a profile that shares information about their lives such as interests, profession or relationships. They can upload photos and videos of themselves or follow news topics they’re interested in. The website is divided into different sections – Friend Feeds where users can see when friends post anything new, Pages where businesses and organizations have their own page so individuals can like them, Events to invite friends to come together and Groups for individuals who share similar interests.

Facebook had over 2 billion active users as of May 2017 and is also used for marketing purposes with companies able to create their own pages to promote their businesses. It is estimated that 87 percent of the global population knows about Facebook meaning the social network has had a huge impact on driving internet penetration across the world due to its wide reach among users globally.


Launched in 2003, LinkedIn was one of the first social networking sites to focus primarily on career and professional networking. As a result, LinkedIn quickly became popular among college graduates and professionals looking to connect with colleagues from their past or potential employers.

LinkedIn differed from other early social networks such as Friendster, MySpace and Orkut as its functionality was geared towards making connections for business and promoting careers rather than entertaining users. With features such as profiles, shared networks (shared connections and groups based on employers or alma maters), a “jobs” section connecting members to job postings, company profiles (for posting jobs), messaging services and more, LinkedIn differentiates itself from more popular recreational social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by targeting a more professional audience. Memberships are voluntary though a premium subscription version is available for additional cost with advanced features that allow users even further versatility when seeking out job opportunities or personal connections.


Twitter is a microblogging and social media platform founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Under the handle @twitter, it launched on July 15th 2006 with the original tweet “just setting up my twttr”. At the time, Twitter’s core feature was its 140 character limit which allowed users to quickly communicate a thought in one sentence.

Lurking (non-active readers) for a few years before becoming publicly available in 2006, Twitter took the world by storm and just 10 years later was considered one of if not the most influential communication platform. Thanks to its quick adoption, it won Best Overall Mobile App at SXSW Interactive Festival in 2007.

Twitter achieved growth through word-of-mouth promotion and organic interest it created among netizens around the world. The ongoing modernisation of content kept users engaged while gradually increasing engagement metrics and tipping off potential advertisers of its potential commercialisation opportunities; akin to Facebook’s success story. In 2009-2011 Twitter became a go-to spot for people to share breaking news events – incentivising more people to join due to its faster publishing capabilities compared to traditional news outlets such as radio or newspapers; this set the foundation for an even more engaged userbase population in subsequent years despite some issues faced with trolls & spam accounts – both of which have been mostly mitigated through various algorithms and adjustments over time until present day.

Photo and Video-Based Social Media Platforms (2010s)

The 2010s marked the start of the new era of social media platforms that were centered around photos and videos. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok enabled users to share and consume photos and videos in a whole new way. These platforms exploded in popularity and quickly changed the face of social media as we knew it.

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Let’s dive into this period of tech history to learn more about the evolution of these platforms.


Instagram, created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October 2010, is a photo- and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook. Through the Instagram platform, users can share photos and videos either publicly or privately to other users. Common features on the platform allow users to comment on photos and videos, tag other users in their posts, and use Instagram’s editing tools to enhance photos with the company’s own built-in filters.

As a social network institution intended for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, it has become extremely popular due to its interactive nature which has permitted brand recognition building at an accelerated pace. This surge has made Instagram one of the largest photo sharing networks of all time.

When a user signs up for an Instagram account, they gain access to various features such as:

  • Unique filters for editing their photos.
  • Geotagging feature which allows them to add location information to their posts.
  • Time sensitive posts that expire at the end of each day or soon after posting them (known as ‘Story’ feature).
  • Hashtag support for categorizing posts even further than just mentioning friends in the post itself (e.g. #travel).
  • Adding friends via connecting your contact book with your account or through finding people you know who are already using Instagram etc.
  • Allowing live streams onto your page directly from your device giving increasingly more real life access into users personal lives etc.

All these features coupled together make this social network beneficial not only to a personal level but also professionally; helping brands establish themselves in present day media environment while providing opportunities of fan involvement through polls/questions/comments etc..


Launched in 2011, Snapchat was one of the first surge of photo and video-based social media platforms. It offers users a way to share photos and videos with their “friends” for a limited time – typically 24 hours – before they disappear from the receiver’s device forever. In addition, Snapchat offers its users “stories” which allow people to compile multiple photos or videos into one post which can last up to 24 hours. This feature allows the user to create a narrative out of their photos and contacts, while also creating awareness among all their subscribers.

Since its launch, Snapchat has become hugely popular all across the world, becoming one of the most downloaded apps of 2017 and growing beyond 200 million active daily users. Its user base mostly falls under age 35 in the countries with largest penetration such as the United States, India, UK and France. This platform is ideal for very specific types of content such as behind-the-scenes look or clips from live events and performances as this kind of content disappears quickly enough not to clutter many other platforms making it unique as compared to other social networks out there.

In addition to its stories feature which has been extremely successful since its launch , since early 2018, Snapchat has introduced more interactive elements like games that allow friends on a group chat thread play games together right within the app boosting stickiness among its younger demographic base who often use this form of media for fun purposes and entertainment rather than news or updates about life events happening around them unlike other networks!


Founded in 2005, YouTube is a video-based social media platform that allows users to post and share videos. Content on the platform can range from news clips, educational topics, music videos, user-generated content such as vlogs and more. Over the years YouTube has become a powerful platform for businesses and creators to reach new audiences and make money from their videos.

YouTube also offers users the ability to watch free shows and films with ads or choose its premium service which gives access to exclusive movies, shows, etc., as well as its own content library. The platform has also been an influential tool for celebrities and influencers who use it for communication with fans as well as monetization through video sponsorships.

In addition to its video functionality, YouTube has also been expanding its features by launching services like:

  • Google Gaming (a co-streaming feature that lets gamers watch others play),
  • a virtual reality feature (which lets viewers experience 3D content),
  • live streaming capabilities (which allows creators host live shows and events using their YouTube channels),
  • and more recently TikTok creator challenges (where viewers are invited to take part in promotional challenges).

New Generation Social Media Platforms (2020s)

In the 2020s, social media platforms have seen a significant transformation and a number of new platforms have emerged to take over from the likes of Friendster, MySpace, and Twitter. From social networks to photo- and video-sharing apps, the new generation of platforms have challenged the way we communicate.

In this article, we’ll look at how social media platforms have evolved in the 2020s and the impact they’ve had on our lives.

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TikTok has become increasingly popular over the past few years, particularly among young people. The app can be quickly downloaded to your smartphone or tablet and allows you to create and share short videos with friends. These videos range from lip-sync performances of popular songs to comedic skits, inspiring dance videos and more.

TikTok is unique in that users don’t have profiles like they do on other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on creating humorous or creative content that can be shared with their followers and liked by viewers. The app also offers users different tools such as filters, effects, special themes and audio clips that can be used to enhance their videos. As its popularity has grown so rapidly, other companies have been taking notice and started rolling out similar apps that copy the basic idea of TikTok while offering additional features.


Clubhouse is a rapidly-growing social media platform that is providing users with unprecedented levels of interactivity and engagement. The platform allows users to virtually attend “rooms,” or virtual gatherings, from around the world. It’s user interface uses audio conversations as the primary form of engagement – allowing users to share their thoughts and stories face to face without being physically present.

The platform has even seen some major music artists like Drake take notice, hosting their own rooms for fans and followers alike. This experiential approach ensures that all audiences can participate in conversation without any added pressure. Clubhouse’s algorithm sorts users into ‘topics’ so conversations don’t drift too far off course; everyone in a room is able to jump in and out of chat when needed. The app also gives control over how topics can be explored – moderators are able to mute participants when necessary and clubs/rooms can be password protected making it accessible only by those who have permission to join in on the discussion.

With its fast-paced networking system and cutting-edge technology, Clubhouse has become one of the most popular new social media platforms around the world – reinventing how people connect with each other while providing a highly interactive user experience.


Triller, founded in 2015 and based in Los Angeles, is one of the leading new generation social media platforms. It is a short-form video platform that allows users to create and share videos with their friends or fans. It is a great way to showcase special moments or have fun with friends.

Unlike other social media platforms such as YouTube, Triller focuses more on creating TikTok-style videos that are 15 seconds in length or less. The app includes various features like the ability to mix and match different music tracks into a created video, the ability to collaborate with other users when making content, and access to artistic effects and filters for further customizations.

Triller also has a built-in search engine that helps users find specific songs and special moments in their videos. With its rising popularity among all generations of users, Triller looks like it’s here to stay as one of the top new generation social media platforms!


Social media has taken the world by storm over the past two decades and continues to be a powerful tool for communication, networking and engagement. It has come a long way from the days of Friendster to where we are today with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as newer apps such as TikTok leading the charge into new generations of social media users.

Despite some of the challenges that have been posed by these technologies, such as privacy concerns and potential tech addiction, they can still be used in positive ways to bring people together and allow individuals an outlet to connect and share ideas within their own communities or with those across the globe. Ultimately, social media will always evolve to meet user’s needs—new platforms provide us with ever-evolving content options while giving us ways to engage with others online safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What was the first social media platform?

Friendster is credited as being the first modern social media platform, launched in 2002.

2. When did Facebook become popular?

Facebook began to gain popularity in 2006 and quickly surpassed other social media platforms like MySpace.

3. When did Twitter launch?

Twitter launched in 2006 and has since become a popular platform for sharing news, opinions, and connecting with others.

4. What is Instagram?

Instagram is a photo and video sharing social media platform launched in 2010. It quickly gained popularity and was acquired by Facebook in 2012.

5. What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform launched in 2016 that allows users to create and share short-form videos. It quickly became popular with younger generations and has since grown in popularity.

6. What is the future of social media?

The future of social media is constantly evolving and it’s hard to predict what’s next. Augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence are all technologies that are likely to play a role in shaping the future of social media.