Harvard University

History Of Social Networking Websites


Social networking websites may be defined as sites that allow users to build a profile that will be made public within an enclosed system. Social networking websites also allow users to display some of the other users they communicate with and they allow them to view lists of other members found within the system. It should be noted that the main purpose behind creation of a social networking website is to enable persons to avail pre-existing connections. Social networking websites have also been created for the purpose of initiating friendships between strangers. (Acquisti & Gross, 2006)

Users who join Social networking websites are required to make a profile of themselves by filling up a form. After filling up the forms, users are supposed to give out information about their personality attributes and personal appearances. Some social networking websites require photos but most of them will give details about one’s age, preference, likes and dislikes. Some social networking websites like Facebook allow users to customize their profiles by adding multimedia content. (Geroimenko & Chen, 2007)

History of social networking websites

The first hint of social networking websites was witnessed in the year 1997 through formation of a certain company called Sixdegrees.com. This company was the first of its kind; it allowed user to list their profiles, provide a list of friends and then contact them. However, the Company did not do very well as it eventually closed three years later. The reason for this was that many people using the internet at that time had not formed many social networks hence there was little room for maneuver. It should be noted that there were also other elements that hinted at Social network websites. For instance, dating sites required users to give their profiles but they could not share other people’s websites. Additionally, there were some websites that would link former school mates but the lists could not be shared with others. (Cassidy, 2006)

After this there was the creation of LiveJournal in the year 1999. It was created in order to facilitate one way exchanges of journals between friends. Another company in Korea called Cyworld added some social networking features in the year 2001. This was then followed by Lunar Storm in Sweden during the same year. They include things like diary pages and friends lists. Additionally, Ryze.com also established itself in the market. It was created with the purpose of linking business men within San Francisco. The Company was under the management of Friendster, LinkedIn, Tribe.net and Ryze. The latter company was the least successful among all others. However, Tribe.net specialized in the business world but Friendster initially did well; this did not last for long. (Cohen, 2003)

The most significant companies in the history of social networking websites are as follows

  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Friendster

The rest of the essay shall examine how these particular companies were formed.


Friendster began its operations in the year 2002. It was a brother company to Ryze but was designed to deal with the social aspect of their market. The company was like a dating service, however, match making was not done in the typical way where strangers met. Instead, friends would propose which individuals are most compatible with one another. At first, there was an exponential growth of the Comply. This was especially after introduction of network for gay men and increase in number of bloggers. The latter would usually tell their friends about the advantages of social networking through Friendster and this led to further expansion. However, Friendster had established a market base in one small community. After their subscribers reached overwhelming numbers, the company could no longer cope with the demand. There were numerous complaints about the way their servers were handled because subscribers would experience communication breakdowns. As if this was not enough, social networks in the real world were not doing well; some people would find themselves dating their bosses or former classmates since the virtual community created by the company was rather small. The Company also started limiting the level of connection between enthusiastic users. (Boyd, 2004)

At the time, one could only view profiles of friends who were within four degrees. Because of such limitations, some people decided to create phony friends just so that they could expand their social networks. The company banished this be deleting such profiles and these angered some users. The company had not foreseen the fact that some people just enjoyed reading such phony profiles so that they could entertain themselves. So the company lost such enthusiasts. Technical hitches began mounting and there were many social clashes. Users lost trust in the company and it started collapsing. (Boyd, 2004)


By 2003, there were numerous companies formed with the purpose of providing social networking service. However, most of them did not attract too much attention especially in the US market. For instance, LinkedIn and Xing were formed for business persons while services like MyChurch, Dogster and Couchsurfing were formed for social services. Other companies that had been engaging in other services started offering social networking services. For instance, the YouTube and Last.FM were initially formed to facilitate video and music sharing respectively. However, the started adopted social networking services. (Backstrom et al, 2006)

MySpace realized that there was an increasing demand for the service and entered the market in 2003. The company had been formed to host some of the expelled Friendster users. For instance, music bands and other frustrated users. Bands were particularly interested in MySpace; they provided a platform for the company’s growth. Promoters in the US would use MySpace to advertise upcoming gigs. On the other hand, fans got a chance to reach their stars and the company began growing. T first it was through word of mouth. This was especially after some rumors started flying that Friendster would begin charging for their services. (ComScore, 2007)

MySpace grew rapidly because they customized services depending on what customers were looking for. Furthermore, the company did not restrict age groups like Friendster did. This allowed teenagers to join the company as they wished. Music bands were the main attraction to these sites as friends spread the word around it. However, this lack of restrictions brought problems for the company later because there were cases of abusing minors. Despite this, the company did well after earning recognition form media sources in 2005.

With time, other social networking services entered the market even though most of them did relatively well in non-English speaking countries. Some of them include Orkut in Brazil, Lunar Storm in Sweden, Grono in Poland and Cyworld in South Korea. (Choi, 2006)


This social networking service was introduced with the purpose of linking friends in Harvard University in 2004. Thereafter, the company expanded to other universities then colleges. Eventually, they invited corporate communities. But this does not mean that profiles would be interchanged at will. There are lots of restrictions between friends who join the universities social network because they have to have the .edu address. Additionally, those joining corporate network must also have the .com attachment. This company prides itself in their ability to maintain privacy and niche communities and have been instrumental in learning institutions. (Charnigo & Barnett-Ellis, 2007)


Social networking services were started with the intention of linking small communities. Elements of these features were present in the past but very few companies offered all the three essential features that make social networking websites. These are an ability to create profiles, provide the profiles to other users and also to view their users’ lists. All service networking companies have had major differences because of restrictions or access to the above three features. MySpace and Facebook are one of the most reputable companies in the industry. However, they have had their share of legal complaints too. This is especially in instances where restrictions were kept at a minimum or were overdone. (Cassidy, 2006)


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Choi, H. (2006): Living in Cyworld: Contextualising Cy-Ties in South Korea, pp. 173-186, New York: Peter Lang

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Reuters, retrieved from

http://asia.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=internetNews&storyID=304193 accessed on May 28, 2008

ComScore (2007): Social networking goes global. Reston, VA. Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=155 accessed on May 28, 2003

Geroimenko, V. & Chen, C. (2007): Visualizing the Semantic Web, pp. 229–242, Berlin: Springer.

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