Facebook has over 1 billion users.
I can’t even fathom that many people. That’s more than three times the entire population of the United States. There’s almost one Facebook profile for every seven people on earth. Imagine that.
The entire planet that we live on– some 5,814,822 square miles of land, full of people. But where would these one billion profiles be if it was not for the social networks that came before.
Remembering Social Networks of the Past
The first proper, modern social network I remember was Friendster.
It was a proto-MySpace in that people could contact one another, share photos, discover bands and find people with shared interests. It was, of course, also used for online dating. It has since relaunced as a popular social gaming platform in Asia, with registered users around 115 million.
Xanga began as a site that featured music and book reviews, but it evolved to allow users to post any kind of blog or vlog they desired. It allowed bloggers to group together under in ‘blogrings’ (taking inspiration from the webrings of yesteryear) and even innovated the sort of microblogging that has made Tumblr [and Twitter] so successful.
Then came MySpace. It was a social networking behemoth for teenagers, adults and rock bands alike. Musicians were especially successful on MySpace, which proved to be a very successful marketing vehicle, especially for unsigned indie bands and up-and-coming major label acts.
The social network started simple enough, but as it gained steam it allowed users to infinitely customize their own profile. So much so, in fact, that people started flocking to Facebook because of its relatively simple, bare-bones design. However, fast-forward circa now and MySpace is in the midst of a comeback.
The Friendsters. The Xangas. The MySpaces. Those companies were pioneers in the world of web, fulfilling Facebook’s eventual manifest destiny, one profile at a time. In a land of mirror reflection self-shots and virtual ‘pokes’ one company reigns supreme. But Facebook certainly did not do it on their own.
How Facebook Did “Social Media” Better
The social media business model was already there. Facebook just did it better.
The reason they were able to do it better is simple, they learned from failures. Just like any smart business owner, Mark Zuckerberg and his crew looked at what social networks were doing, what people wanted (and what they did not) and improved the model. This can be translated to any business.