Ghosts of Social Media Past

I stumbled upon a recent Gizmodo article that inspired me to write about past social networks. In this post, I discuss why past social networks’ failures have created such success in today’s most popular platforms, as well as what we can take away from the evolution of media.

Social networks have become more than just a means of sharing your favorite things, it has become a lifestyle. According to Hootsuite, 3.48 billion people use social media as of March 2019. This prompts the question, “What makes platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat so successful?”. The answer lies within their predecessors.

Dead Social Media Sites

Before the era of thirty minute vlogs and tweets about pets, there were platforms that provided a different utility.

Friendster – Scam Friendly

  • How it works: This social network is not too different from networks such as Facebook. Through your page, you can access your friend’s page and then you can access their friends’ pages.
  • The Problem: One person can have access to millions of pages. Not only does this defeat the purpose of being closer to people, it also leaves room for scamming and inappropriate activity. 

Myspace – From Boom to Bust

  • How it works: You create a page with attributes about yourself and invite friends who are members of the platform to join your “Friend Space”. These new connections join your network.
  • The Problem: People were just moving with the times. Competitors like Facebook offered a new and appealing layout. Facebook, at the time, marketed to former members of Myspace as a more mature social media platform. 

Yik Yak – Yak of Security

  • How it works: Originally, this social media platform was geared towards students. It was created where you could broadcast a post from a five mile radius, all without even creating a username.
  • The Problem: The aspect of anonymity made it more accessible for people to say whatever they wanted on a larger scale without any real identification. This also attributed to legal issues regarding threats towards schools and people.

Google+ – A Social Media for Google Not You

  • How it works: It was intended to be a social graph. This platform compiled a user’s data across all Google platforms.
  • The Problem: The lack of usership was caused by the difficult layout and lack of satisfaction that other socials offered. This was further amplified by the security breach of 5.2 million existing accounts.

Vine – 6 Seconds of Popularity

  • How it works: You can upload a 6 second video and it can be looped many times by users.
  • The Problem: Like others mentioned above, it was quite popular when it first launched. Eventually, it was overtaken by YouTube. This was due to YouTube’s diversity in video content and better engagement.

Periscope – Twitter’s Loss

  • How it works: It is a live broadcasting platform that anyone can use. I would like to note that this platform has not been eliminated yet, but it is on a rapid decline.
  • The Problem: Periscope suffers from a similar fate to Vine, it has a stronger competitor. With the introduction of Facebook Live, Periscope has become obsolete. Periscope’s greatest setback is the fact that it deletes broadcasts 24 hours after posting them.

What We Learned

  1. Layout – Too simple or too complicated results in failure. The platform should be engaging, yet user friendly
  2. Change – Developments and changes to the network are necessary to keep an audience. Lack of change to match today’s speed and efficiency can lead to people leaving the platform in search of something better.
  3. Security – Security means everything. People should feel safe giving their information. If they don’t feel safe, they might leave the network or not engage as frequently. There also need to be security measures taken where people cannot post inappropriate or dangerous content so freely.
  4. Longevity – Every platform will eventually die down. This has to do with the change in attitudes and the times. The death of a platform may also have to do with a shift in technology. Many of the social media networks mentioned above are not going to be compatible with today’s technology.

Now when you visit your favorite social media platforms, I hope you get a better understanding of the developments and research made to surpass the expectations and results of past networks.