The Evolution of 3 Social Media Giants

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

It’s always fun to look back at how things have evolved online. The first websites would be laughable if we saw them today.

Perhaps you remember a time when every site had Netscape on it. Or a time when websites were bare-boned and boring. It’s not like you could leave your email if you enjoyed the content. Most people didn't have one!

In the early days of websites, there was no such thing as rankings based on relevancy. Yahoo, for instance, looked more like a directory than the intuitive search engines we know today.

It’s safe to say that we’ve evolved a lot since then, and modern websites look nothing like those of the past. It’s interesting to note, however, that we have reverted back to simpler designs.

How else have some of the social giants evolved, specifically Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

Let’s take a look and enjoy some nostalgia this afternoon.

Facebook

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates in 2004. The website was initially limited to Harvard students, but it quickly expanded to other schools. It also dropped the “the” and became just “Facebook” as opposed to “The Facebook.”

At the time of its launching, the social site was designed to help students search for people at their school, discover who was in their classes and look up their friends’ friends. It was a neat tool that gave people the power to do a little digging anonymously.

In 2006, the mini-feed was born, and the highly annoying poking feature was introduced. I think we’ve all lost some friendships over that one.

By 2007, anyone who was 13 years or older could open up an account on Facebook. The News Feed also launched so users could finally see what their friends were posting. Bumper stickers were also a huge hit. That’s another feature I’m glad is over.

Facebook went mobile in 2009, and this was the time that the real-time news feed was introduced. Users hated it. They said it was too similar to Twitter, and people just didn’t need constant, in-the-moment updates.

Thankfully, the social giant got a completely new look the following year, and a lot of the changes have stuck around. For example, the 2010 design included the Timeline, a ticker on the right-hand side, more emphasis on shared posts rather than personal information, etc.

Today, everyone has a Facebook page. It’s hard to imagine that a time without the social network even existed. But don’t worry. In a few years, the youngest users won’t have lived a day without it.

Twitter

Twitter is another social giant that has come a long way over the years. It was launched in 2006 by Jack Dorsey as a short-form messaging service. The social network allowed users to broadcast their status through their mobile devices, which was cutting-edge at the time. There weren’t a lot of ways to do this back in the day.

By 2007, Twitter had gone from 20,000 to 60,000 tweets daily. By 2010, this number jumped to 50 million.

In 2008, Twitter introduced verified accounts for important people like celebrities and public figures. Unlike Facebook where users had to “friend” each other to see their posts, anyone could follow celebrities and journalists and connect with them. This really helped break down the barriers and connect people across the globe in real-time.

Though Twitter has been known and loved for its short messages, it has toyed around with the idea of expanding the character count for regular posts. Just last year, it extended its character limit for direct messages.

In other ways, however, the social giant is sticking to simplicity. Twitter announced last year that they were removing wallpapers from users’ home and notification timelines. The “blinding white” background keeps consistent with Twitter’s efforts to be clean and simple.

LinkedIn

The final social media giant getting some love today is LinkedIn. The professional network had a humble beginning that started in a living room. Today, the network brings millions of professionals together to share their identities, connect with one another and expand their career paths.

LinkedIn is older than both Facebook and Twitter. It was launched in 2003 and was unique right from the start. Rather than trying to compete with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Friendster, LinkedIn was in its own lane. It didn’t appeal to teens and young adults. Rather, it appealed to those interested in professional development.

LinkedIn was slow to develop. In its first week, it had 2,500 users, and this number grew to 6,000 in the first month. After six months, there were 37,000 users, and two years later, there were 1.7 million professionals.

LinkedIn also wanted to separate itself from other job boards like Monster or CareerBuilder. They accomplished this by giving hiring managers the option to view a candidate’s qualifications. Today, the professional networking site continues to make updates to help professionals easier connect with one another.

Summary

It’s fun to watch things evolve, and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are no exception. There are some trends that can be noted with all three social networks. These include simplified registration (forms instead of buttons) and minimal designs.

All three networks continue to be updated to offer better user experiences that cut out clutter and noise. At the same time, the sites are user generated, so what users have to say matters, too.  

What do you think these sites will look like in another 10 years?

About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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