So 2014 is now well and truly upon us and I think I am right in saying our lives would be incomplete now without the social web. When you take a careful look around everyone seems to have their smartphone either glued to the palm of their hand or a tablet within grabbing distance. It appears we have all become obsessed or addicted to using our phones and we seem to get a strange kind of anxiety when we can’t find them.
What did we do before mobile devices? I remember trying to arrange to meet friends when I was a teenager and you never quite knew if they were going to turn up late or not but today it doesn’t matter as you can tweet, Whatsapp, text or even -heaven forbid – actually call them. This enables us all to have that constant always-on access to the internet and stay in touch by our social media channels.
But how has the development of online activity over the past two decades resulted in this compulsive need to feel connected? We have taken a punt at identifying the top ten game changers in the history of social media as it actually stands today. We know you’ll agree with some of our points, and have ideas of your own on some of the others. One thing’s for sure, everyone on our list have been major contributors to the evolution of what we now call social media, and have helped shape the way we communicate in modern society.
Whether you agree with our list below or not, this should be a good start for a discussion. If you have one you want to add your opinion, please feel free to let me know in the comments section.
The Prohibition Top Ten Social Media Game Changers

  1. 2000 – Friendsreunited – In my mind one of the first social networks that helped you actually find people you went to school or university with. When it came out this was so innovative it got everybody talking. However, years of underinvestment saw it’s popularity slide and it was sold for just £25million back in 2009. There are still amazingly 24 million registered members of Friendsreunited, that’s 39% of the UK’s population. Just how many have used their accounts in the last three years though is anyone’s guess.
  2. 2003 – Wordpress – One of the world’s most popular blogging platforms which helped shape the way bloggers like me use content. The beauty of Wordpress is its open-source nature and the amount of plugins available, and although it has some security issues, it still remains the most popular way to build websites today. A staggering 52% of the top 100 Technorati blogs run on Wordpress.
  3. 2000 – Tripadvisor – This hotel listing site became so much more than a peer recommendation platform. Today Tripadvisor is the go-to website before you book your hotel and this is down to the open nature and rating system. The Tripadvisor mobile app is downloaded 28 times a minute.
  4. 2006 – Spotify – was one of the world’s first music streaming service. There are several now but at the time spotify was an industry leader showing the music industry a new way to offer music content to users. However, although artists get a lot more visibility through Spotify the rumour is the amount they get paid is far far lower with Daft Punk having the biggest track so far on the platform but only earning a small percentage of what it would have earned just a few years ago. There are more than 500 million playlists already on the platform.
  5. 2002 – Linked-in – One of the world’s most popular business-to-business platforms. As of June 2013, LinkedIn reported more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories.
  6. 2003 – Skype – Skype is now seen by many as more than simply an application, as it now helps businesses and consumers alike. It is the platform that brought us face to face video communication. We had been promised this technology in science fiction movies and now it is finally here. Skype is brilliant and mostly free. The Luxembourg-based company sees 18 billion hours of video calls being made a year.
  7. 2004 – Facebook – We couldn’t have a list without it. Never before had people been able to interact with each other in the same way that Facebook enabled you to. Although not the first social networking site, it has definitely left one of the biggest impressions on society. Connecting with one another through events, photographs, common interests and wall posts has seriously generated a buzzing hub of activity that enables communication effectively and efficiently. Even though it’s banned, there are currently 95 million Facebook users in China.
  8. 2005 – YouTube – This video sharing network has exploded since launching in 2005. Thousands of videos are posted to the site every second, providing people with a source of visual content from all over the world. Not only is it a place of learning but it’s a place of discovery. YouTube helps great talents become noticed, and the stupid ones as well, providing a platform for people to showcase what they feel other people would benefit from seeing. This was a real game changer as it has noticeably improved our education, global awareness and ability to share the moments that really matter in life. Add that to the fact it is now owned by Google and you see why it is included. YouTube reaches more U.S adults aged 18-34 than any other cable network.
  9. 2006 – Twitter – Resorting to just 140 characters has proven revolutionary for Twitter. Minimising the amount of waffle has enabled people to focus on key messaging and deal with smaller quantities of text. This has been especially beneficial to many businesses, large or small, as they can deal with customer complaints, recommendations, reviews etc. much more easily. Twitter brought us the #hashtag and because of that we have to be eternally grateful as it has now become the categorisation of choice on the social web. Twitter is now being tipped to increase its character limit to accommodate adverts.
  10. 2012 – Pinterest – The internet stores infinite content and many people don’t know where to begin surfing. Through the refinement of this content into ‘sticky-note’ sized posts people can create and adapt their very own pin board. This latest networking site is just beginning to take off and reach its full potential with direct links to sites that in turn, aid the rise of e-commerce. This is a really interesting concept and again image-based. As of 2012, Pinterest is now the fourth largest web traffic source in the world and should be dismissed at your peril.

Let me know if you agree or disagree with our list. Where do you think the future of social media lies?

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Evolution Of Social Media

About Chris Norton

Founder of Prohibition, listed in the world's top 30 marketing bloggers and an award winning online PR and crisis management specialist. Co-author of Share This Too.