Once upon a time in a virtual world, there was the Internet. A window to the world, you could sit there in front of the computer and chat with people from Slovenia or small ville Nebraska. Until then,teenagersusedtoreach across the continents and make distant friends via pen pals. Yes they actually used pen and paper. I remember my cousins had pen pals in North America and we would be so enamored by the photos and the helpless romanticism that came with it.
As the Internet evolved, there were bulletin boards where people with a dial up internet connection gathered to discuss topics they had in common. A virtual billboard, you could come post worthless stuff you had on sale or you could discuss why FAT32 partitions on your hard drive were not as good as NTFS partitions. Yes we are talking Window 98. Computers were in the pre-Pentium era and software was still on Floppy Disks, many many of them. Then came programs called ICQ and mIRC which revolutionized the online chat world. I know amongst of all my friends I was hooked. I remember spending endless hours glued to the screens chatting with almost two dozen people at one time. America Online and Compuserve were the hot buzz words. If your computer said ‘You got Mail’ you were popular. ICQ and mIRC laid the ground forsocialmedia-youcansaythiswas the first generation of social media. Then ICQ did something no one else did. They introduced video. Now you could see the guy or gal at the other end and see for real if that person was really a George Clooney look-alike or the exact opposite.
I am sure around this time, all the founders of Twitter, Facebook and Flickr were in college fantasizing about a new platform. Then came, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and several others. What was apparent was that we all wanted to chat and interact online like we all did offline. We wanted to see each other, we wanted to discuss intimate and business conversations. Business meetings no longer meant flying across the country, hotel rooms and the whole shabang. As business communication evolved into Skype and other chat software, personal chat programs evolved into tagging softwares. Yes. I call them tagging software.
Who knew that a bunch of young college students would come up with a program called Facebook. It was intended for fellow college students to meet each other online. It had now evolved into a multi-million following on different continents. Yes, I had heard of them in their infancy and discounted them as one of those Myspace-like idea. They will have their 15 minute of exposureandtheywillbegone,sowhywastetime.SoIthought!
Butastime progressed, I realized that everyone and their grandma was on Facebook. Guys I played Cricket with as a kid, were in touch with each other, except me. Twitter was a close second and then there were the other kids on the block – Tumblr, Digg, and whole other gang that were there but not important enough to pay attention to. LinkedIn was the professional platform which eventually made itself more acceptable amongst college students as well. Contrary to popular belief, LinkedIn is not just for seasoned professionals but for college students who are putting their resumes online for their entry level jobs.
Facebook and Twitter have done one thing – encouraged Adult A.D.D. Today the world is split between like and dislike. Everything you see and read is black and white. What you ‘like’ is at the top and what you don’t soon gets lost in oblivion. Very similar to real life relationships, one tends to stay in touch and closer to people who they like and the ones they don’t stay at arm’s length.
The future will be interesting. The three platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have in a way copied a lot of the same features, ‘likes’ are called ‘follow’ and ‘posts’ are called ‘tweets.’ And then thereisGooglePlus.Ohwait-what?Did you say Google Plus? Yes. The last one to get on the social media bus, today leads the numbers game. In spite of largest number of users/subscribers, for the developers it’s a hurry and wait game. They got their 100 mill subcribers in a very period of time but now that they are onboard, no one is using it. You ask around the room, most people will say they have a Google Plus account but no one is using it.
But that’s okay. Google did the best thing. It woke up Facebook and Twitter and reminded them that anything was possible. Result – more changes, updates, and better user experience for Facebook and Twitter users. Now that is why we all like competition. In a free market, the customer wins. Facebook has taken it a step further. As Yahoo messenger went from a stand alone application to being a browser plugin, Facebook will soon release Facebook messenger which is a stand alone program. And Facebook plans to be the new Netflix. Which makes me wonder – What are the execs at Netflix and Yahoo thinking right now?
Only time will tell. Until then, feel free to post your vacation photos on Facebook and tweet about that hot chick you met on the weekend. But remember if the big brother is not watching, your boss or your dad certainly is!