It was a hit almost immediately, and even today the service boasts some 57 million registered accounts. Sporting a name based on the theory somehow associated with actor Kevin Bacon that no person is separated by more than six degrees from another, the site sprung up in 1997 and was one of the very first to allow its users to create profiles, invite friends, organize groups, and surf other user profiles.
But as it expanded beyond just a privileged few hubs and nodes, so too did the idea that connected computers might also make a great forum for discussing mutual topics of interest, and perhaps even meeting or renewing acquaintances with other humans. Related: Mullets reigned supreme in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s; computers were a far rarer commodity.
Machine languages were bewildering, and their potential seemingly limited.
Though differing from many current social networking sites in that it asks not “Who can I connect with?
” but rather, “Who can I connect with that was once a schoolmate of mine?
But there were also other avenues for social interaction long before the Internet exploded onto the mainstream consciousness.
One such option was Compu Serve, a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution, but expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s.
In many ways, and for many people, AOL was the Internet before the Internet, and its member-created communities (complete with searchable “Member Profiles,” in which users would list pertinent details about themselves), were arguably the service’s most fascinating, forward-thinking feature.
Yet there was no stopping the real Internet, and by the mid-1990s it was moving full bore.
What’s more, this whole sitting-in-front-of-a-keyboard thing was so… Put all this together and you have a medium where only the most ardent enthusiasts and techno-babbling hobbyists dared tread.