The first social networking website, SixDegrees.com, debuted 15 years ago. Five years later, a site called Friendster.com opened its doors, spawning the social networking craze that led to MySpace and Facebook.
But even before then, people were using computers to communicate and socialize, just not always in the way we think of social networking today. In some cases the social network never extended beyond one computer that people used at different times–one person would leave a message in the morning, another might see it in the afternoon.
Since social networking websites are a fairly recent phenomenon, I decided to celebrate the anniversaries by digging a little further back to investigate the world of computerized social networking in the pre-Web era. But what is a social network, anyway? For the purposes of this slideshow, I defined it loosely as a computer system that distinguished between distinct user accounts or profiles and allowed those accounts to communicate with one another. The term has come to mean much more than that over the years–but as you’ll see, the rudiments of today’s services existed far earlier than most people realize.
If you feel like being social after viewing this slideshow, tell us about your favorite ancient social networking experiences in the comments area below.