Brian McConnell has written an interesting column about the history of social networks on GigaOM.
Social Networks, from the 80s to the 00s – GigaOM
Guest Column, Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM PT
Written by Brian McConnell
As Facebook enjoys its moment in the sun, we should take a moment to step back and look at the history of computers and social communication. Some historical perspective is in order, both to assess the real value of social networks as businesses, and to anticipate how they are likely to evolve in the future.
I started my networked community experience using FidoNet BBS’s and then running my own and one for the Melbourne OS/2 Developers Group.
My first experience of the internet was reading internet news groups through the FidoNet gateways. For quite a while the cost of internet access was high enough that most people got access to internet style resources through FidoNet. Then as the availability of internet access increased and it’s cost dropped FidoNet slowly lost members.
He describes the transition from the community based FidoNet, then commercial systems like Compuserve and AOL that started as bulletin board style communities and then became internet access providers, and then on the internet and communities like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook.
I agree with Brian’s argument that the history of growth and decline of these different forms of social networking can give us some indications of the future direction – the trend from large, single provider closed systems to open, diverse, many provider systems.
He looks at the services provided by the currently popular social networks like Facebook and shows how they are likely to be replaced by an open social network being provided in many different ways by many different providers.
(thanks to Jeremiah Owyang’s Weekly Digest of Social Networking for bringing this article to my attention.)