The Dawn of Social Media
The concept of social media is not new. It can be traced back to the days of bulletin board systems (BBS) and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) rooms. These platforms allowed users to communicate with one another, albeit in a more rudimentary form.
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” – Erik Qualman
Timeline of Early Social Networking Platforms:
- 1978: Bulletin Board System (BBS) – The first BBS was developed by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess. It was a precursor to the modern internet and allowed users to connect and share software, data, and news.
- 1988: Internet Relay Chat (IRC) – Created by Jarkko Oikarinen, IRC was one of the first real-time chat platforms that allowed users to communicate instantly over the internet.
The Necessity and Utility of Early Social Media Platforms
In the late 1970s and 1980s, the world was undergoing a technological revolution. The personal computer was becoming more accessible, and there was a growing need for methods to share information and communicate in this burgeoning digital age. This was a time before the ubiquity of the World Wide Web, and the digital tools available were primitive compared to today’s standards.
Why was it needed?
- Information Sharing: The BBS, for instance, was crucial for early computer enthusiasts, known as “hobbyists,” to share software, troubleshoot issues, and exchange knowledge. It was a decentralized way to disseminate information, making it a forerunner to modern peer-to-peer sharing.
- Community Building: Both BBS and IRC served as early platforms for building virtual communities. People with similar interests, who might never meet in the physical world, could connect, discuss, and collaborate.
- Real-time Communication: Before the age of instant messaging and emails, IRC provided a platform for real-time digital communication, a novelty at the time. It bridged geographical gaps and allowed instantaneous discussions, a feature we take for granted today.
What was it most frequently used for?
- BBS: Primarily used for downloading software and data, reading news, and posting messages to public message boards. It was a hub for early online gaming, software trading, and digital art scenes.
- IRC: Predominantly used for real-time group chat in discussion forums, known as “channels,” but also had the capability for one-on-one chat. It became popular for coordinating during events, collaborative projects, and even social movements.
Who used it?
- BBS: Early computer enthusiasts, software developers, and hobbyists were the primary users. It was a niche community of tech-savvy individuals who saw the potential of digital communication.
- IRC: A broader audience, ranging from professionals collaborating on projects to students chatting about common interests, adopted IRC. As it was more accessible and required less technical know-how, it attracted a diverse user base.
In essence, the dawn of social media was a response to the human desire to connect, share, and collaborate in an increasingly digital world. These early platforms laid the foundation for the vast and intricate web of social media networks we see today. They were a testament to the innovative spirit of the times, pushing boundaries and redefining how we communicate.
The development of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) in the late 1970s and 1980s involved several individuals and groups. Here are some of the notable people associated with the early development of BBS:
- Ward Christensen – He is credited with creating the first BBS, the Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS), in collaboration with Randy Suess.
- Randy Suess – Co-creator of the CBBS with Ward Christensen.
- Tom Jennings – He developed FidoNet, a network of BBSes that allowed them to communicate with each other.