Social Media Deep Dive – How Platforms Have Evolved From the 90s to 2023

Social media has become pivotal and instrumental to our everyday lives.

Whether it’s for work, connecting with friends and family, or for pure entertainment, social media is something that we use daily and often across multiple platforms.

The last two decades have seen the rise and fall of various social media networks, with new apps being launched to this day that offer unique features and new possibilities.

Join us as we take a deep dive into the history of social media – following a timeline from the first sniff of socials, right through to the present day, to see how they have evolved.


1997 – The first social media platform, SixDegrees, was launched before the new millennium hit. This social network service had basic features such as allowing users to list friends and family members on the site and invite external contacts.

2000 – Hot or Not then joined the line up. This site allowed users to rate the attractiveness of photos submitted, later turning into a dating site with the launch of its ‘Meet Me’ matchmaking engine.

2002 – Friendster was created in the early 2000s as one of the original social networks, sounding very much like an early version of Facebook. Users could share online content and media with their contacts, discover events and hobbies, and send messages and comments to people’s profiles.

2003 – MySpace joins us, and this is probably where most of us can remember social media really starting. This site was the first social network to reach a global user base, highlighting new pop culture and music from around the world. In 2005, MySpace became the largest social networking site in the world.

2003 – LinkedIn was also introduced at this time, having been officially born in 2002 in the Co-Founders living room. LinkedIn had a niche as a business and employment-focused social media platform, used for networking, job seeking and professional career development.

2005 – Facebook joined the table (being rebranded from Facemash and The Facebook). Social media giant Facebook took the world by storm, becoming the most downloaded app of the 2010s.

2005 – YouTube was launched, bringing video marketing to the forefront (even today it is still a commonly used reference, ‘I’ll take a look on YouTube).


2006 – Twitter was hatched, encouraging text updates known as ‘tweets’ with minimal characters.

2007 – The hashtag was launched. Whilst not a platform, it has revolutionised the way we use social media today, so we believe it deserves a mention in our social media deep dive.

2010 – Late to the table, but with a focus on images rather than words, Instagram joins the social media line up – and it’s all about the grid. Instagram’s USP was that only images or videos could be uploaded, creating a personalised photo feed.

2010 – Instagram was quickly followed by Snapchat, which was also an image-based social platform. Yet the main feature of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are only available to view for a short time before they disappear.

2010 also saw the launch of Pinterest! Pinterest allows users to make pinboards of images and GIFs to create mood boards popular for weddings and home décor.

2012 – Facebook celebrates 1 billion users and acquires Instagram – really turning social media on its head.

2017 – TikTok joins the party, and whilst it had a slow start with security issues, it’s taken the world by storm, gaining immense popularity during the pandemic. TikTok is a purely video platform, hosting short clips from 3 seconds to 10 minutes. During October 2020, the app surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide!

2020 – Social commerce emerges (with a real need for it based on the global pandemic).

2020 – The invite only audio platform, Clubhouse, gets the world squawking … but not for long.

2022 – BeReal. joins today’s social media line up. Its main feature is a daily notification that gives users a two-minute window to share a photo of themselves and their surroundings, aiming to promote the authenticity of what users share online.

2023 – The latest social media platform taking the internet by storm is Threads. Launched in July 2023, Threads is Instagram’s answer to Twitter. The app requires users to have an Instagram account which it links to and is like having Instagram and Twitter all on one handle, allowing users to share text, images and videos.

As social media has evolved from text-based to video content, it reflects how society and digital marketing have also shifted, representing how we want to connect with others and the world around us.

Keeping up to date with social media is important for both our personal and professional lives.

Keep your eyes peeled for more Parrot blogs as we share tips on topics such as how to get the best out of social media for your business.