Social Web - History


Like the telephone, the Internet was not created as a communication tool to interact socially, but evolved to become a part of everyday life. However, social interaction has been facilitated by the web for nearly the entire duration of its existence, as indicated by the continuing success of social software, which at its core centers around connecting individuals virtually with others whom they already have relationships with in the physical world. Email dates from the 1960s, and was one of the first social applications to connect multiple individuals through a network, enabling social interaction by allowing users to send messages to one or more people. This application, which some have argued may be the most successful social software ever, was actually used to help build the Internet. The web got its start as a large but simple Bulletin Board System (BBS) that allowed users to exchange software, information, news, data, and other messages with one another. Ward Christensen invented the first public BBS in the late 1970s, and another (named "The WELL") in the late 80's and early '90s arose as a popular online community. The Usenet, a global discussion system similar to a BBS that enabled users to post public messages, was conceived in 1979; the system found tremendous popularity in the 1980s as individuals posted news and articles to categories called "newsgroups". By the late 1990s, personal web sites that allowed individuals to share information about their private lives with others were increasingly widespread. On this fertile period of the web's development, its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote that:

The Web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect--to help people work together--and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner. What we believe, endorse, agree with, and depend on is representable and, increasingly, represented on the Web.

The term "social Web" was coined by Howard Rheingold for this network in 1996; Rheingold was quoted in an article for Time magazine on his website "Electric Minds," described as a "virtual community center" that listed online communities for users interested in socializing through the Web, saying that "'The idea is that we will lead the transformation of the Web into a social Web'".

The social Web developed in three stages from the beginning of the '90s up to the present day, transforming from simple one-way communication web pages to a network of truly social applications. During the "one-way conversation" era of online applications in the mid '90s, most of the nearly 18,000 web pages in existence were "read only", or "static web sites" with information flowing exclusively from the person or organization that ran the site; although the web was used socially at this time, communication was difficult, achieved only through individuals reacting to each other's posts on one web page by responding to them on their own personal web page. In the mid '90s, Amazon and other pioneers made great progress in advancing online social interaction by discovering how to link databases to their web sites in order to store information as well as to display it; in concert with other innovations, this led to the rise of read-write web applications, allowing for a "two-way conversation" between users and the individual or organization running the site. As these web applications became more sophisticated, people became more comfortable using and interacting with them, bandwidth increased, and access to the Internet became more prevalent, causing designers to begin implementing new features that allowed users to communicate not only with a site's publishers, but with others who visited that site as well. Despite being a small step forward technologically, it was a huge step socially, enabling group interaction for the first time, and it has been claimed that this social exchange between many individuals is what separates a web application from a social Web application.

The first social networking sites, including (1995) and (1997), were introduced prior to social media sites. It has been argued that the transition towards social media sites began after the world's first online interactive diary community Open Diary was founded on December 19, 1998; currently still online after ten years, it has hosted over five million digital diaries. Open Diary successfully brought online diary writers together into one community as an early social networking site, and it was during this time that the term "weblog" was coined (later to be shortened to the ubiquitous "blog" after one blogger jokingly turned weblog into the sentence "we blog"). Some claim that this marked the beginning of the current era of social media, with "social media" being a term that entered into both common usage and prominence as high-speed Internet became increasingly available, growing in popularity as a concept and leading to the rise of social networking sites such as Myspace (2003) and Facebook (2004). It has been argued that this trend towards social media "can be seen as an evolution back to the Internet's roots, since it re-transforms the World Wide Web to what it was initially created for: a platform to facilitate information exchange between users."

Read more about this topic:  Social Web

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