The Twitter era has essentially ended after the company’s owner, Elon Musk, rebranded the company as X, nixing the iconic blue bird in the process. For some critics, Musk has been the harbinger of death for the social media platform since acquiring it in 2022. In his quest to remake Twitter into a free speech haven, Musk has made some drastic changes, including eliminating the blue check to denote verification and reinstating the accounts of previously banned controversial figures,
Musings about the “death” of Twitter might stir memories of the ghosts of social media’s past. Here are some obsolete social networking platforms that should trigger a little nostalgia.
Six Degrees (1997-2000)
Six Degrees was one of the first social networking services to emerge in 1997. It was named after the theory of the same name that people are no more than six or fewer social connections from each other. It was one of the first sites to allow users to create profiles and add friends, family, and acquaintances. Unfortunately, it “shut down soon after the dot-com crash of 2000” because “the world wasn’t ready yet,” The Atlantic wrote. The founders “worked the six degrees angle hard” and often encouraged users to add more people to the network, Digital Trends recalled. But some users found their insistence “pushy,” and the site “slowly devolved into a loose association of computer users and numerous complaints of spam-filled membership drives.” The site shut down in 2000.
Friendster was another early social networking pioneer. It had many of the hallmark features of social platforms that allowed people to connect with friends and family via messages and groups. Friendster was essentially a “more pared down version of Facebook” and was relatively popular until the latter came on the scene, Mashable explained. In 2003 Google unsuccessfully offered to buy the platform for $30 million, but “burdened by technical glitches and a more nimble competitor in Facebook,” it faded into obscurity in the U.S. by 2006, Wired reported. It remained popular in Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines, even after it abandoned user profiles to become a social gaming platform in 2011. By 2015 the company suspended services altogether.
Google launched Orkut, its own social networking platform, in 2004, a year after failing to acquire Friendster. The platform was named after Turkish software engineer Orkut Büyükkökten, who created the site while working for Google. It was the company’s first foray into social networking, and the first of many flops. Remember Google Wave, Google Buzz, and early iterations of Google+? The site never really took off in the U.S. but was India and Brazil’s most popular social networking site in 2010. Orkut eventually shut down in 2014 after a decade-long run. The site went live again in 2022, with a message from the founder noting that he was working on something new, with the option to sign up for updates.
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It didn’t achieve major popularity in the U.S., but Bebo was once the most popular social networking site in other English-speaking countries, like New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom, in 2007. At its height, the platform sold for $850 million to AOL in 2008, but it struggled to stand out against competitors. Two years later, AOL sold the site for only $10 million, and Bebo filed for bankruptcy in 2013. This led the original founders, a husband and wife team named Michael and Xochi Birch, to repurchase the platform for $1 million, hoping to reinvent it. They eventually shifted to esports streaming and tournaments, and Bebo was acquired by Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch in 2019 before being taken offline.
Before Tik Tok, Vine was the king of short-form video content, launching some creators into viral fame with six-second clips. It was developed in 2012 by Colin Kroll, Rus Yusupov, and Dom Hofmann. Twitter bought the platform before it launched for a rumored $30 million, per CNN, and officially launched it in 2013. The app was the birthplace of internet celebrities like Logan and Jake Paul. However, issues with trying to monetize their content led many creators to flock to other platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram. In October 2016, Twitter announced it was shutting down the service. One of the original creators responded to the news on Twitter. “Don’t sell your company,” Yusupov tweeted at the time.
Platforms surprisingly still around
LiveJournal (1999)Xanga (1999)AsianAvenue (1997), BlackPlanet (1999), and MiGente (2000)Myspace (2003)Tagged (2004)Yik Yak (2013-2017) (relaunched 2021)Skip advertSkip advertSkip advert