Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have dominated the Internet as the most visited websites in the last seven or eight years, beating out information centric sites such as Wikipedia and the search engines Google and Yahoo.  As it turns out, people have attempted to connect with each other through computers since the very early days of personal computing.Roots of Social Networking

Early Nineteen Seventies

The earliest social networks were in the form of bulletin boards.  These bulletin boards were not like our current Internet bulletin board systems like online product help forums and online topical forum sites.  The first computer bulletin board was set up in Leopold’s Records in Berkley California in 1972.  This electronic bulletin board was set up as a computer terminal that actually sat next to the community bulletin board within the record store.  Users would come in and hang flyers for the sale of their Volkswagen Bus on the corkboard and then type in their for sale advertisement into the “Community Memory” machine, as they called it.  The Community Memory system hosted local advertisements, questions and advice concerning cost saving measures and requests for the best restaurants in the area.  While this computer system was not connected to a larger online network of computers, the central location of this system being located in a central community hub allowed Community Memory to connect several people in the Berkeley community.

The first example of online networked social networking came later in 1972 through a computer system called PLATO 4.  Plato, Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations, released its version 4 with the ability to allow students to talk with each other via an online message board.  Later the next year, in 1973, Plato 4 released the first online chat application.

In 1976, two students of Kansas University developed an online message board system for the university campus members to use.  This system called “Honk” worked in a similar fashion to Berkeley’s “Community Memory” application.  While users continued to use the system similar to how it used Community Manager, it worked on several Honeywell computers around the university, not just one single computer.

Late Seventies to Early Eighties

The late seventies saw several more advances to network technology as the personal computer gained in popularity among electronics hobbyists.  By the early eighties, Macintosh and Commodore computers were becoming more and more common amongst individual users as well as school and library community computer spaces.

1978 saw the creation of the world’s first dial up bulletin board program, called the Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS).  For the first time, individual users were able to use their personal computers in their homes and a network modem to dial up to a central computer hosting the CBBS and connect with each other.

CompuServe Information Services was introduced in 1979.  Beyond just a simple bulletin board system, CompuServe services resembled something closer to a full ISP service, offering news, shopping, reference material, electronic mail and database access.  CompuServe eventually became AOL in the nineties, and in many ways resembled then what an early AOL service featured before the turn of the century.

Usenet was first launched in 1980 and has been one of the Internet’s most frequented newsgroups since that time.  The newsgroups were arranged topically and covered a wide range of topics to movies to religion to politics.

American People/Link was introduced in 1984 as a competitor to CompuServe Information Services.  In 1985, American People/ Link marketed itself as an online dating service.   Within the next few years, APL had close to 5000 registered users.

Author Bio: Jason Phillips is a social media enthusiast who likes to blog on topics like technology and social networking. His favorite pastime includes doing web cam chat and video chat with friends.