Social Media evolution: from MSN to Clubhouse

Credits: Pixabay / LoboStudioHamburg

It’s hard to imagine our daily lives without social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Cooperations with influencers is an essential part of our business, and even in private we like to be inspired on Pinterest, entertained on YouTube and connected on LinkedIn. But if we think back to how this madness started and remember our MSN or ICQ days, it’s quite amazing how quickly social networks have evolved and differentiated. Today, there are countless platforms and networks for a wide variety of purposes. We would like to introduce you to the milestones and evolution of today’s most important social media.

Big Bang: It ward Internet and with it unlimited possibilities.

With the (public) access to the World Wide Web, the horizon in terms of communication, networking and online representation expanded. The first ancestor of social media as we know it today were the so-called Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) aka mailboxes in the early eighties, which made it possible to exchange messages online between different users of a platform. In the nineties, more precisely in 1995, MSN, Microsoft’s social network, appeared as one of the first social media prototypes designed to allow users to create their own profiles. The main competitor was ICQ, which was launched by the start-up Mirabilis in 1996 and bought by AOL in 1998. While the use of MSN initially depended on the use of paid Microsoft utilities, ICQ was accessible free of charge from the outset. The instant messenger was considered the market leader at the turn of the millennium, but the competition never sleeps…

Exponential growth of the social media population

Shortly thereafter, the networks LinkedIn (2002) and its German competitor XING, then known as OpenBC (2003), were launched. While both were primarily designed for business use, MySpace and Skype from 2003 onwards appealed more to private users, MySpace even with a specific focus on musicians and artists. Skype, by the way, was so popular that it was bought by eBay in 2005 and by Microsoft in 2011. Facebook and Google were also extremely interested in the platform. Speaking of Facebook… Mark Zuckerberg launched the blue network just a year later, in 2004, and started his media empire, which dominates the market to this day with Instagram and WhatsApp. Instagram, however, wasn’t released until 2010 and was bought by Zuckerberg’s people in 2012. Shortly after Facebook, YouTube also appeared in 2005 and Twitter in 2006. Meanwhile in Germany: the networks studiVZ, SchülerVZ and meinVZ are launched by a subsidiary of Holtzbrinck Verlag and establish themselves as online communities for students and pupils. At the start of the studiVZ career in 2005, Facebook was still only available in English. The boom years of social media were clearly the 2000s. But even today, new networks are still being founded and used, such as TikTok and Clubhouse.

Survival of the fittest: What do we actively use today?

Hardly anyone still actively uses MSN or ICQ. Some of the older communities no longer exist. SchülerVZ, for example, was shut down in 2013. Its “mother” studiVZ was also supposed to die in 2020 but is still online. ICQ, on the other hand, has just been relaunched and is available under the innovative name ICQ New (creativity at its best). Still, there are a handful of social networks that have been actively growing since the 2000s and are still evolving with new updates and features, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Recently, however, Clubhouse and TikTok are absolutely among them, though TikTok isn’t even as new as you might think. The pioneer app musical.ly has been around since 2014 and was replaced by TikTok in 2018. Pinterest, which has been a constant success story since 2010, has not yet been mentioned, but it is at least as relevant as Twitter and the like. Here, it’s less about news spread or representing oneself and more about inspiration and living out creativity through uploads of appealing images on various topics. As soon as ZUCKER. has a brainstorming session, we like to scroll through the depths of Pinterest and get inspired by the endless number of mood boards.

Credits: Unsplash / Szabo Viktor

The diversity of social networks is truly amazing! It’s not easy to keep track of everything here, and it’s absolutely not necessary to be represented in every community. That can be quite time-consuming. In addition, we should always critically question the contributions in the networks, as well as their impact. Public accessibility and relative anonymity, as well as the frequent lack of verification of messages, make it possible for fake news and propaganda to spread and lower the inhibition threshold for personal insults and even open threats and hate speech. In terms of data protection, we should also question our use of social media and take a hard look at how our information is used. Nevertheless, we are amazed and grateful for the opportunities that the networks offer us and the developments that we have witnessed over the last 20 years and now take for granted. Both in our work and in our free time, social media enriches us in many ways and we are always happy to try out new trends.

Fun Fact to wrap up: the world’s first Twitter post by founder Jack Dorsey was just recently auctioned off for $2.9 million! Crazy, right?

This post is also available in: German