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The Rise and Fall of Social Media Platforms

Elon Musk's recent acquisition of Twitter has left thousands of users dissatisfied. But Twitter isn't the first platform to fall from grace.
November 30, 2022
7 mins read

After months of going back and forth on the deal, Elon Musk finally secured Twitter as his own. Immediately, the social media app erupted in a flurry of tweets from millions of users who wanted to comment on the acquisition. To make matters more complex, racist tweets surfaced immediately from users who felt that Musk’s takeover justified an extremist view of free speech. The users at fault claimed that they felt the “old rules regarding bigotry” were obsolete. With the level of uproar and controversy generated by this news, many were left asking whether or not the Twitter app would survive. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t, it would not be the first beloved social media website to go extinct.

Popular Sites That No One Talks About Anymore

If one were to reference the website Six Degrees in 2022, most people would have no idea what it was. However, Six Degrees is widely considered to be the first social networking site. Founded in 1996 — when the internet was still young — Six Degrees had millions of registered users. However, the lack of proper internet infrastructure, and the lack of people who were online at that time kept it from reaching its full potential. Like many social media leaders, Six Degrees was eventually replaced by a newer model and bought out by YouthStream Media Networks for $125 million at the start of the new millennium.

Other early social media sites include Ryze, Friendster and hi5. While hi5 and Ryze still have active landing pages, Friendster is no longer operational. At one point, Google set out to buy Friendster for $30 million, but a lack of strong network connections among its millions of users eventually led to its collapse. This shows developers that despite a large user base, a lack of interest in interpersonal connection can lead to a site’s demise.

MySpace Was Once the Most Popular Website

One would have to search far and wide to find millennials who aren’t familiar with the former social media giant MySpace. From approximately 2005 to 2008, MySpace was the leader in early social media websites. With a focus on sharing music and featuring musical artists, MySpace was once valued at $12 billion. What happened? When MySpace began monetizing its service, the focus wasn’t on improving or maintaining a positive user experience. When more user-friendly options such as Facebook grew in popularity, MySpace saw a sharp drop in active users, as well as its monetary value. Nowadays? MySpace is mostly only used as a music-listening website. Ultimately, regardless of the company’s spin on MySpace, users decided where they wanted to focus their energy.

Tumblr Made a Controversial Decision

In the 2000s and 2010s, Tumblr was a micro-blogging website with a massive number of users. Tumblr was primarily popular for people who considered themselves part of popular fandoms such as “Doctor Who” or “My Little Pony.” Users were able to share images, text and other media via both the website and the app. The social media blogging platform was acquired by Yahoo in 2013. However, around 10% of blog posts shared on Tumblr were adult and other NSFW content. The NSFW content would prove to be an issue with Yahoo, as it had the potential to disrupt advertising ventures. Yahoo began implementing filters on the site, which resulted in backlash from the LGBTQ+ community. Changes to various features on the platform coupled with nationwide bans of Tumblr in some countries resulted in massive losses of revenue and a 30% decline in users accessing the site. In 2018, Tumblr’s total ban in adult content was the final blow. Yahoo sold Tumblr in 2019 to Automattic for a small fraction of what it was originally worth in 2013. Thus, a beloved micro-blogging website’s difficulty selling ad space led to its downfall when it alienated its own user base.

 Vine Ended Quickly

Before the days of TikTok, Vine encouraged users to show off just how creative they could be in only six seconds. In 2012, Twitter purchased Vine for $30 million after it exploded in popularity across the internet. In 2016, however, users were shocked when it was announced that Vine would be shut down. Competition in the form of 15-second videos from Instagram and 10-second clips from Snapchat proved to be too much for Vine to compete with. To make matters worse, Twitter did not provide Vine’s influencers and other content creators with the support that they needed to stay visible, and most of Vine’s original management had already stepped down. Layoffs at Twitter further complicated the situation. In the end, despite its initial popularity, Vine was unable to keep up.

Twitter’s Future is Uncertain

The fate of Twitter remains unknown for the time being. Musk has already announced that he will ban impersonations that aren’t labeled parodies, despite his promises of maintaining free speech on the social media platform. With social media leaders of the past falling from their pedestals, it’s evident that almost every case resulted from users no longer feeling connected to the platform itself. Whether a platform’s decline is due to faulty infrastructure, a lack of a user-friendly interface or a parent company pushing users away from their beloved site, social media giants should be mindful to keep their users happy. Without an active user base, a website is just another empty page on the web, no matter how big it once was.

Kane Howard, York College

Writer Profile

Kane Howard

York College

Kane Howard is an English major at York College. He has experience with writing both fiction and non-fiction works.

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