We use a vast mix of social networks in 2016, with over 75% of all Internet users using social media to connect with their peers and celebrities, showcase their lives and catch up on what they’ve missed.
Social networking sites have come along way since their initial launch to the general public, and as everybody loves an old yearbook photo, we’ve brought out some cringeworthy, brilliant and interesting old UI designs, full of clashing colours, gifs, retro fonts and table markups.
Founded in 2006, we all know of the story of how Facebook came about - if not for the widely popular ‘Social Network’ film, for the numerous articles in The Crimson showing Marks rise to fame after coming under fire from the Ad board after his site ‘FaceSmash’ was accused of breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy of the students involved. He quickly developed The Facebook, and launched the first version of the giant network to the public in September 2006.
Mark later dropped ‘The’ to just ‘Facebook’, but kept the blue theme and the modular layout which is still consistent today, and easily recognisable.
Founded in July of 2006, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass introduced the idea of using an SMS service to communicate with a small group of users. Originally called twttr (inspired by Flickr and the five-character length of American SMS short codes) - 6 months down the line, the domain twitter.com was purchased and the first tweet was sent by Dorsey at 9:50pm: "just setting up my twttr"
Twitter quickly gained traction with users flocking to the initial design. Again Twitter chose to go with the blue theme initially, adding a bird logo which became iconic to the Twitter brand.
Created by Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp, and Ben Silbermann in March 2010, Pinterest was the first of it’s kind to allow users to create their own virtual pinboard, saving and sharing images they’ve found across the web.
After the initial launch, Silbermann apparently personally wrote to the site's first 5,000 users offering his personal phone number and even meeting with some of its user to discuss feedback… imagine being one of them lucky few!
Their original design had a very... retro feel to it, but props to Pinterest for not deviating away from their theme almost 6 years later. Besides a logo change - Pinterest still remains the same masonry grid layout we love and use today.
Launched in February of 2007, Tumblr began its days as a project during a two-week gap between contracts at David Karp's software consulting company, Davidville. Karp had been interested in tumblelogs (short-form blogs) for some time and was waiting for one of the established blogging platforms to introduce their own tumblelogging platform. As no one had done so after a year of waiting, Karp and developer Marco Arment began working on their own tumblelogging platform.
Within 2 weeks of it’s initial launch, Tumblr had gained 75,000 users - which kept on growing into the massive community that is what we know today.
After 9 years, Tumblr has kept their logo almost intact, with just some kerning adjustments and shadows added. Good on you Tumblr!
YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal - and apparently gained inspiration from Janet Jackson's role in the 2004 Super Bowl incident, when her breast was exposed during her performance, and later from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Karim could not easily find video clips of either event online, which led to the idea of a video sharing site. Hurley and Chen said that the original idea for YouTube was a video version of an online dating service!
You can see from the original concept that they had the functionality to search through a database of members. I guess we’re all thankful they scrapped this idea in favour of a video sharing and viewing platform!
Flickr was launched in February 2004 by Ludicorp, a Vancouver-based company that originally created Flickr from tools originally produced for Ludicorp's Game Neverending, a web-based massively multiplayer online game. Flickr proved a more feasible project and the game was shelved.
Flickr started off not actually too shabby in the early stages, sticking with the widely known pink and blue theme up until May of 2013 where, after being acquired by Yahoo, switched to a more modern, minimal approach which divided users - many of which threatened to leave. As of today, Flickr has over 110 million users in 63 countries sharing over 1 million pictures daily. The UI overaull couldn't have been that bad with those stats!
Instagram began development in San Francisco, when Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger chose to focus their multi-featured HTML5 check-in project, Burbn, on mobile photography. Launched in October of 2006 as a free mobile app, Instagram gathered over 100 million in the first 2 years - now boasting 400 million monthly active users and being happy addition to the Facebook family.
Instagram started off going down the muddy brown colour scheme, but (thankfully) gave the whole UI an overhaul, adding a website feature to the brand, allowing users to browse profiles, but still being unable to upload imagery via desktop.
Last.fm, founded in the United Kingdom in 2002, uses a music recommender system called "Audioscrobbler", building a detailed profile of each user's musical taste by recording details of the tracks the user listens to, either from Internet radio stations, or the user's computer or many portable music devices.
No one could possibly shame LastFM for their site back in 2002, because as far as sites go, it did the job. But today’s version is a whole lot different, sporting a dark theme with a circular aspect.
Google Buzz/ Google +
Google Buzz was a social networking, microblogging and messaging tool that was developed by Google on February 9, 2010 and integrated into their web-based email program, Gmail. Users could share links, photos, videos, status messages and comments organized in "conversations" and visible in the user's inbox.
Buzz was discontinued on December 15, 2011, and Google+ was born. Buzz was very Web2.0 with the bevelled gloss effects and the showcase web page in the hero, but G+ introduced a much sleeker, flat design that’s extremely easy on the eye.
Cringey enough? - What comes out of a showdown like this is the familiar colour schemes that are trending. Blue is such a huge part of social network branding due to it representing ‘communication’. Blue also promotes interaction: Whilst other colours tend to distract the consumer, blue disappears as a transparent background, allowing the true content to shine through.
It makes you wonder, in a few years time will all of these social networks look like a 90’s throwback? Will tables and gifs make a come back with some nice drop shadows and bevelled buttons?... It’s amazing what a year in tech can do to design trends!