The Evolution of Social Media from 1969 to 2013: A Change in Competition and a Trend Toward Complementary, Niche Sites

Karen Elizabeth McIntyre


How did social media begin, and where is it going? Will a new social network conquer Facebook? In order to speculate about the future, the evolution of social media from 1969 to 2013 – a topic that scholars have yet to explore – is examined. Through a textual analysis, the historical development and downfall of influential social media platforms is traced and a discussion of how media evolution theories applied along the way are provided. Results indicate early social media platforms competed with each other directly and marketed to the general population, largely supporting the functional equivalence theory of media evolution. Around the turn of the century, however, social networks experienced a theoretical shift. Sites competed less with each other and more for audience time and attention. Simultaneously, platforms started targeting niche populations – a change that may support the future of social media as an industry supporting the complementary and niche theories of media evolution. 


social media; media evolution; history of social media; niche theory

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