The following is a post on the history of virtual communities by Patrick Mackaronis.
Long ago and far away, there was a quaint little cyber village called Geocities. Geocities was, for several years, one of the most popular virtual communities on the Internet.
Known for its topic-specific neighborhoods, Geocities offered web users a creative and interactive way to find like-minded cyber buddies through chat rooms and yes, good old-fashioned web pages. There was Area 51 for science fiction and fantasy buffs. Heartland for those looking for hometown values and HotSprings for the more health-conscious surfers. (psst… any ex-Capitol-Hillers out there? Its me… Kate(jpo)!) With 41 neighborhoods in all, Geocities was THE place to be, whether you knew anything about creating a web site or not.
Virtual Communities: GeoCities
Today, Geocities is long gone, although its spirit of “community on the web” continues to stay strong. With forums, instant messaging and a whole host of chat rooms, building community has become one of the web’s biggest accomplishments. Geocities would be so proud. But perhaps the most impressive community builders of all is MySpace, the “Geocities” for the next generation.
MySpace.com is a sort of web page/forum hybrid, also one of the most popular virtual communities, complete with graphics, templates, blogging capabilities and email system. Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Don’t be so sure. Just as I never missed a night of chatting on Capitol Hill, MySpace users are taking full advantage of this new instant communication tool.
Founded in July 2003 by Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, MySpace was originally created to give aspiring musicians a place to promote their music and connect with potential fans. A musician himself, Anderson had Hollywood contacts and as word spread, MySpace quickly became a profitable venture, projecting a $200 million in revenues.
Virtual Communities: MySpace
So, just what do you do with a MySpace account?
Plenty! Upon registration, each user is given a “Profile” that they can edit, manipulate and customize to suit their needs. The Profile is the equivalent of a one-page website within the MySpace domain and consists of two basic sections: About Me and People I’d Like To Meet. In addition to these two sections however, users can add extra sections such as personal info, music and movie players, books, etc. As 17-year-old Michael Edwards stated in an interview with USA Today, “your page is like your personality.”
But the possibilities of MySpace doesn’t stop at self-promotion. Remember, MySpace was designed to be a social networking website so user interaction is key to its success. In addition to personal customization, users can also post messages and graphics to other users sites by joining their “Friends” list. MySpace also has an internal email system allowing you to contact other MySpace users without the need for a personal email address. Create your own blog (private or public), send announcements to your friends or add pictures, graphics and random thoughts when the mood strikes you.
Think this is just another fad for socially curious teens? Think again. According to a count, MySpace boasted almost 50 million members, including such notables as Hillary Duff, Peyton and Eli Manning, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Halle Berry.
Patrick Mackaronis is the CEO and Founder of Brabble, and can be reached on Twitter at @patty__mack.