The Story Behind 10 Social Networks

Social networking has become an integral part of society, both for personal and business use. Through social media, family can stay connected at all times anywhere they have Internet access.

Items can be sold, new acquaintances made, and news broadcasted, all by social networks. Businesses use social network sites to connect with customers on a more personal level and for an easy way to make quick announcements.

Social media certainly has changed the way our society functions today. In fact, younger generations may not even remember a time before social networking and easy access to friends and family all over the world. What is so interesting, though, is that social networks have not been around for very long but have made irreversible changes in the way people relate to one another. Take a look at the history of 10 of the most popular social networks. You may notice a trend in start-up dates and how quickly these sites grew into the successful social networks they are today.

If you like this article, you might also like some of our previous articles on Social Media Icons, Use The Services Of Social Media, Social Media Icon Collection, and Deals Dollars And Social Media.

01. Digg

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Once upon a time, in December of 2004, a man named Kevin Rose had an idea to create a site to make finding links more relevant through a community of users. Hence, the social media site Digg was born. Interestingly enough, Rose did not necessarily come up with the unusual spelling of the site himself; Disney already owned a site with the address of dig.com, so Rose had to come up with something a little more unique: digg.com.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Rose provided founders with only $6,000 to start the site. Only about two years later in October of 2006, Digg had a net $2.5 million from investors. By September of 2008, Digg had a net $28.7 million from investors, a huge leap from the original investment needed to start the site. Obviously, Digg was Rose’s ticket to fame and fortune.

From the time of its startup, Digg has continued to improve its usability for members. In January 2005, it added a new feature that enabled fans to talk about dug up or buried sites. In 2006, Digg Spy 2.0 was released, which enabled users to see what other users where doing on the site in real time. Other features that we see in most social media sites were also added late in 2006, including Favorites, podcasts, videos, a top ten sidebar, and a Friends page. By 2010, Digg had 40 million users, and it is still growing today. The changes in 2010, which included an iPhone and Android app release and the launching of Digg 4.0, mean that this site is determined and able to remain a top social network for a long time to come.

02. Stumble Upon

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In November of 2001, Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith, Justin LaFrance, and Eric Boyd started the social media site Stumble Upon. Almost immediately after the launch date, Stumble Upon became extremely popular and caught the attention of top executives, including Mitch Kapor of the Mozilla Foundation, First Round Capital, Ram Shriram of Google, and Ron Conway. This executive attraction brought Stumble Upon $1.2 million, which is impressive, but does not compare to the $75 million that Ebay paid for it in May 2007. Ebay owned Stumble Upon for only a few short years; in April 2009, Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith and several investors bought it back.

One major update for Stumble Upon was its StumbleVideo site, launched in December of 2006. Users could now “stumble” through submitted videos and using the AJAX interface rate each one. Then in April 2007, Stumble Upon released StumbleThru, a service that allowed toolbar users to “stumble” through popular sites such as YouTube, Wikipedia, The Onion, and PBS. According to its own records, Stumble Upon has over 15 million members and is continuing to grow.

03. Delicious

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Formerly del.icio.us, Delicious is a web service for online bookmarks with features such as storing, sharing, and discovering bookmarks. Joshua Schachter started this website in 2003, and it only took the site two years to get noticed enough for Yahoo to buy it out. Once more, it is another story of a quick rise to fame and fortune for a web developer. At the end of 2008, Delicious asserted to have more than 5.3 million users, and today it has 180 million unique bookmarked URLs.

Before Delicious, Schachter had grown a link blog out of a text file he maintained to keep track of links. This blog, named Muxway, was the precursor to Delicious. It was in March 2005 that Schachter was able to leave his day job to work full time on Delicious. In April 2005, Delicious acquired approximately $2 million from big investors such as Union Square Ventures and Amazon.com.

The reasoning behind the name: a friend of Schachter’s said that finding good links is like “eating cherries.” On September 6, 2007, del.icio.us formally changed its name and URL to Delicious.com.

04. Twitter

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One day while eating Mexican food on a children’s slide in a park, a man named Jack Dorsey had an idea to create an SMS service that people could use to communicate with an entire group of people. It seems that the birds chirping in the park inspired the name “Twitter”; Dorsey explains that the site itself somewhat resembles the twittering of birds because of its “short bursts of inconsequential information.”

It was in March of 2006 that Twitter was born. At first, it began as an internal service only for Odeo employees, but then in April 2007 it broke away as its own company. Since then it has quickly grown into a top social network with an estimate of 190 million users and approximately 65 million tweets a day. In an attempt to keep up its numbers, Twitter recently rolled out the New Twitter to all of its users.

05. Facebook

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A Harvard sophomore, Mark Zuckerburg, started Facebook in 2004, but then a week after it was launched, three seniors claimed to have invented this social media site. The story behind this confusion began with Mark’s invention in 2003 of a website he called Facemash.com. In this site, he placed two faces of Harvard students side by side and viewers would vote for the more attractive one. Although he did get in trouble for this original site, allegedly it gave the three seniors incentive to ask him for his help in creating a website called Harvardconnection.com. The seniors claimed that Mark broke his agreement with them, took their idea, and created Facebook. In February 2008, the two parties (Facebook and ConnectU or Harvardconnection) agreed to settle the lawsuit.

Despite this confusion, Mark moved to Palo Alto in the summer of 2004 to work on Facebook full time. Soon thereafter, Peter Thiel provided him with a $500,000 investment. Now, only about six years after its beginning, Facebook claims more than 500 million active users with over 700 billion minutes spent on Facebook each month. Most would agree that Mark founded one of the most popular social media sites online, trumping MySpace in only a few short years, and continuing to top Twitter’s reported user activity.

06. LinkedIn

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A social network for professionals, LinkedIn was appropriately founded by professionals. Reid Hoffman and the founding team members of PayPal and Socialnet.com started LinkedIn together in December 2002 and launched it on May 5th, 2003. Linkedin attracted businesses and professional individuals almost immediately, and seemed to grow overnight. By the end of 2003, LinkedIn already had 81,000 members and 14 employees. Used as a form of an online resume or business card, LinkedIn attracted global attention from the beginning. In fact, about half of the original 81,000 members were from outside of the United States. Today, LinkedIn has 21.4 million unique US visitors monthly and globally it has 47.6 million.

Jeff Weiner, formerly of Yahoo! Inc., was named CEO in June of 2009, and has obviously found himself a goldmine. By December 2010, this site was valued at $1.575 billion within private markets. In January 2011, LinkedIn claimed 90 million registered users.

07. Mixx

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With Mixx, various online sources, such as news services and online publishers of video and images, make up the content. Probably what makes Mixx so popular is that users can submit from any online source, including their own websites. How did this interesting social media site get started? It is one more Internet lottery ticket story involving a man named Chris McGill, who at the time of his idea was general manager of Yahoo! News. Noticing how frustrating it was to search through too many websites just to find the right content, McGill decided to create a site on which people with similar interests could much more easily find the best content available. Mixx, born in 2007, was McGill’s answer to a very common problem, and as is the case with any new problem-solving tool, Mixx grew in popularity very quickly.

Soon after the public beta of Mixx was released, McGill hired top businessmen to complete his executive team. Kerry Pearce-Parkins, formerly the VP of content at AOL, became VP of products and marketing at Mixx. Joe Dzikiewicz, Ph.D., formerly lead engineer and product innovator at AOL, became Mixx’s CTO. Since then, Mixx has continued to grow and formed partnerships with popular sites, including CNN.com, The Weather Channel, Reuters, and more.

08. MySpace

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Before MySpace was one of the first social media sites of its kind, a site called Friendster. Several employees of Friendster were able to see an opportunity in the more popular features. In its beginning in the year 2003, however, MySpace was nothing more than a virtual storage site. It wasn’t until 2004 that it transitioned into the social network known today. Unfortunately, MySpace is one social media site that seems to be struggling to maintain momentum.

One of the first of its kind, MySpace was the most popular social networking site of the US by June of 2006. Despite function and layout feature changes made throughout 2007 and 2008, Facebook surpassed it in popularity in April of 2008. MySpace changed the color scheme in summer of 2010, and then in September of 2010, it added a photos section with a Fotoflexer app added to photos; it also allowed users to integrate with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, the changes do not seem to be enough; MySpace announced in January 2011 it would be reducing staff by 47%. My theory? Facebook came at a time when an entire new generation was old enough to start social networking; MySpace was old news by then.

09. Ning

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The purpose of Ning is to provide a site on which brands large and small can easily build customized social websites. Based in Palo Alto, California, it was founded by Chairman Marc Andreessen in October of 2004 and is now privately held. Initially, it was funded by Bianchini, Adreessen, and angel investors.

When Ning Networks launched in February 2007, it quickly gained 17,000 networks the first month. Then in October 2008, Ning along with 30+ third-party developers released OpenSocial profile application support. This grew to 80 different applications in a week. By the end of 2008, Ning claimed 700,000 Ning Networks.

In March of 2010, Jason Rosenthal became the CEO of Ning. Following this important executive move for Ning were some major opportunities for growth. CafePress and HeyZap became partners, which provided Ning with much more monetization opportunities. Then in July of 2010, Ning launched Ning Mini with Pearson Publishing as the sponsor for North American educator networks and WEGO Health as the sponsor for health-related networks.

10. Bebo

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Another spin off social media site, Bebo began after a young married couple, Michael and Xochi Birch, observed Friendster. This site, which is basically another networking site on which members post information and other members comment on, was named Bebo as an acronym for “blog early, blog often.” Bebo was live in 2005 and then bought out by AOL for $850 million. Criterion Capital Partners purchased Bebo for a much lower undisclosed sum (less than $10 million is the rumor) in 2010 after AOL announced either selling or shutting down the site. However, the Birch’s certainly found they were more than capable of living a life any way they pleased with the hefty nest egg they built for themselves.

On July 10, 2007, Bebo added the “Group” module to pages, similar to Groups in Facebook. When Bebo announced joining OpenSocial, a group of common APIs for building social apps, the majority of its members voted against most of the new apps. In May of 2008, Bebo found a security problem, which was later fixed. At the time, though, network engineers found it to be the cause of a mis-configured proxy server in an Internet service provider located in New Zealand.

After the change of hands in 2010, Bebo released a new design and is currently continuing updates in an attempt to compete with other social networks. While the ending for Bebo may be not as glowing as the beginning, the story is certainly one of almost overnight success for the young couple looking for a website that would become their ticket to the big life.

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