LOS ANGELES---With the world's obsession with social media, one would get the wrong impression of just how did we survive as a global society without it for so many thousands of years. And its not just for teenagers and the young at heart. In fact, if you do not have any social media profiles whatsoever, not even a single one, it sends the wrong impression to everybody else in the digital universe that you are either hiding something or, worse yet, something is wrong with you. But how did we come to this point of obsession? How did we come this point where social media can be used as a crucial tool for political change, a megaphone for combating social issues (and injustices) ranging from sexual harassment to bullying and everything else in between? Social media is, indeed, one of the most powerful mediums the world has ever known, and the only one that levels the playing field by giving a voice to the oppressed and vanquishes the oppressors. Contrary to what Sean Parker stated in his strange lamentation about social media's down side a few months ago (late 2017) about him, Mark Zuckerberg and a few others "invented" social media, Sean Parker did not invent social media, or contributed to its invention. The history of social media dates back to the mid-1990's with the invention of the electronic press kit, or EPK for short, serving as the foundational template and rapidly grew from there. Read the history of a medium that truly gave a voice to potentially everyone in the world with access to the web and an audience reach of billions of people. |
1995: Electronic Press Kit (EPK): The Precursor and Starting Point of social Media.
An electronic press kit (EPK) is a press kit equivalent in electronic form. An EPK usually takes the form of a website or e-mail, though they are also known to exist in CD and DVD form. The first known EPK, as we know it today, premiered live on the web on January 8, 1995, and was invented and given the exact name electronic press kit or EPK by Andre Gray, the inventor of online music sales certifications and winner of The Johannes Gutenberg Inventor Prize. Gray's EPK featured a bio, audio clips, videos, photos, press, set list, basic technical requirements, and a calendar and featured R&B singer and songwriter Aaron Hall as the first artist ever to have an EPK created on their behalf. Everyone can agree that the electronic press kit (EPK) serves as the exact template and starting point of social media. Without the invention of the EPK, the would be no Snapchat, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn or any ( and every ) other iteration of social media. Stated more succinctly, without the invention of the EPK, there would be absolutely NO social media.
1997: The Birth of Social Media The first social media site that everyone can agree actually was social media was a website called Six Degrees. It was named after the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory and lasted from 1997 to 2001. Six Degrees allowed users to create a profile and then friend other users. Six Degrees even allowed those who didn’t register as users to confirm friendships and connected quite a few people this way.
From Six Degrees, the internet moved into the era of blogging and instant messaging. Although blogging may not seem like social media precisely, the term fits because people were suddenly able to communicate with a blog other instantly as well as other readers. The term “blog” is a form of the phrase “Weblog” which was coined by Jorn Barger, an early blogger that was the editor of the site “Robot Wisdom.”
From there, ICQ was born and most members of Generation X remember ICQ and the service that was created shortly thereafter, America Online, with AOL’s instant messenger especially prominent in the social media lineup.
2000: The Internet is Everywhere By the year 2000, around 100 million people had access to the internet, and it became quite common for people to be engaged socially online. Of course, then it was looked at as an odd hobby at best. Still, more and more people began to utilize chat rooms for making friends, dating and discussing topics that they wanted to talk about. But the huge boom of social media was still to come.
2003: The First Social Media Surge Although the younger generation of today might not know about it, back in the early 2000’s the website MySpace was the popular place to set up a profile and make friends. MySpace was the original social media profile website, leading into and inspiring websites like Facebook.
But even though MySpace has a very small user base today compared to Facebook and Twitter, there are musicians who have used MySpace to promote their music and even be heard by record producers and other artists. Colbie Caillat is an example.
Another website that was one of the beginning social media websites was LinkedIn, still a social media website today, geared specifically towards professionals who want to network with each other.
In fact, most of the social media websites we have today are similar to LinkedIn, in that they are specifically about one particular thing, or they have some kind of unique quality that has made them popular. While MySpace was a general social media site, LinkedIn was, and is still is, meant for professional businesspeople to connect with each other to network, find jobs and socialize.
2005: Facebook and Twitter In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched what would soon become the social media giant that would set the bar for all other social media services. Facebook is the number one social media website today and it currently boasts over a billion users.
However, back in 2004, Facebook (TheFacebook.com then) was launched just for Harvard students. Zuckerberg saw the potential and released the service to the world at the website facebook.com.
In 2006, the popularity of text messaging or SMS inspired Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Noah Glass and Evan Williams to create Twitter, a service that had the unique distinction of allowing users to send “tweets” of 140 characters or less. Today, Twitter has over 500 million users.
Around 2010: The Rest of the Pack Before long, there were dozens of other websites providing social media services of some kind. Flickr was one of the earliest and still is one of themost popular photo sharing sites, but others include Photobucket and Instagram, with Instagram gaining popularity today as one of the top social media sites to include on business cards and other media.
Tumblr, a microblogging website started in 2007by David Karp and now owned by Yahoo, is one of the sites that could be seen sprouting up in the late 2000s. Foursquare was quite a popular website for a while, particularly with smartphones being used so extensively, and then there is Pinterest, Spotify, and many others. Some of the most popular social media platforms in the late 2000’s included: Google Buzz, Loopt, Blippy, and Groupon.
One of the things that started happening right in this time period is that social media not only became widely used, it also became widespread in business.
Websites were starting to list their social media addresses, businesses would include Facebook and Twitter addresses on their television commercials and many tools were being built to include social media on websites – for example: WordPress plugins that would allow users to include not only links to their social media websites, but also to include their latest social media posts directly on their websites.
Social media icons were seen everywhere and it became almost unusual to see businesses or brands without them.
In addition, social media began to be one of the ways in which internet marketers and website owners would boost the visibility of their websites. The benefits of social media marketing for business began to become quite clear to business owners large and small. Social media bookmarking became quite popular and there were services that would bookmark a post or a website across dozens or even hundreds of social media services.
Social Media Today Social media today consists of thousands of social media platforms, all serving the same – but slightly different purpose. Of course, some social media platforms are more popular than others, but even the smaller ones get used by a portion of the population because each one caters to a very different type of person.
For example: Instagram caters to the kind of person that communicates through photographs best, and other platforms such as Twitter are perfect for those who communicate in short bursts of information. As mentioned, businesses are using social media to promote their products and services in a brand new way and so each form of social media serves a purpose that the others available may not.
The Future of Social Media Although it is impossible to know what the future of social media holds, it is clear that it will continue. Humans are social animals and the more ability to communicate with each other on the level that each person likes best, the more prevalent social media will become. With new and exciting technologies just around the corner, social media will be interesting to see in the coming decades.
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Social Media, EPK, Electronic Press Kit, Andre Gray, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace,