I decided to research sixdegrees.com, since, according to the article, it was the first recognized social networking site. I thought it would be interesting to look back at what started it all.
Sixdegrees.com was started in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich to help people meet people they didn’t know through people they did know. The concept for social networks is based on a statement made by Guglielmo Marconi in his acceptance speech for a Nobel Prize in 1909, where he claimed the number 6 would connect everyone in a radio network. Later studies showed that most people on earth are separated by fewer than six degrees and also proved that the best way to meet people is through your closest network of friends, family and acquaintances.
Sixdegrees.com took concepts from online dating services and community sites and combined them into one place. The users could invite friends to join (their first degree), view and connect with the friends of their friends (their second degree), view and connect with their third degree (friends of friends of friends) and post messages on bulletin boards for all of their connections to see. Users could email each other, make connections with people outside their network, and see how they are connected to others on the site. It was revolutionary.
Although the site only lasted 4 years, ultimately closing in 2001, at its height there were over 3 million subscribers. However it was doomed for several reasons:
a. The site was way ahead of the technology available at the time.
b. The site struggled with keeping their users engaged with the content.
c. The site was unable to turn a profit due to a recession and online advertising had not yet matured.
d. Since they were the first, they were forging new territory. Sometimes companies that hit the market first don’t necessarily survive after the copycats come along. Sixdegrees.com was a great idea, it just wasn’t the right time.
Sixdegrees.com was cool because it was the only site of its kind in 1997. Since it was the first, it opened the door for other sites such as FB and LinkedIn.
As for whether I would have created an account on sixdegrees.com, I don’t know. I rather doubt in 1997 I would have done that. I think if it were now, yes, most definitely. Back then I would have been too scared to ‘join’ an online networking site. Certainly because it was so new, I most likely would have been skeptical to try it out. I guess I am not one of those people that jumps on the bandwagon of a new thing. I wait to see what happens. I recall that in 1994 (?) my boss had just gotten internet access in his office. We were already using email but the internet was new to the company. My boss, another assistant and I sat in the boss’ office and surfed for the first time on the internet. It was very cool and scary all at the same time. I think because it was so new, it was unsettling. I cannot remember how we did anything before the internet and I wonder what the next big leap after it will be.