The Rise of Decentralized Social Media: A Historical Perspective


by Samatha Lerner


Long before the World Wide Web became available to the general public in 1993, humans have  been compelled to connect, share, and communicate with one another. This is precisely why social media has become a titanic figure on the internet today.  While the heated debate surrounding the pros and cons of online human connection still blazes - one thing is certain - social media is here to stay.  Nevertheless, the face of social media networks and how humans use them has changed drastically in the last 30’ish years.  One such shift in online socialization is decentralized social media.  But what is that? And how did it become a thing in today’s sophisticated online social constructs?  Let’s take a look at the history of social media and the rise of decentralized social media to answer those questions.



The Old Days: Birth and Development of Early Social Media Platforms

As we pull on the threads of social media history, we see early platforms were responsible for setting the structure for how humans socialize online.  In fact, early social media platforms made way for users to create their own profile pages, connect with others, show approval or disapproval of content, etc.  That said, let’s take a look at the “old days” of social media and how these progenitors paved the way for modern platforms. 

1997 - 2003

You could technically call early online forums or listservs somewhat social - but the real platforms that share similarities with the social media platforms we know today started with in 1997.  It allowed users to recreationally share and exchange stories, images, GIFs, etc., with other members on the platform.

Fast forward a few short years later to 2002, where we see Friendster, a primitive social site that was geared toward dating and connecting people as couples or friends. This social platform did well for a while until Friendster couldn’t keep up with demand. Their servers buckled in 2003, forcing users to turn elsewhere for their dating or social media fix.

If the two aforementioned social networks don’t ring a bell, then surely you must remember MySpace.  From 2003 the site had a meteoric rise online, especially with teens.  In spite of its popularity, MySpace was sold to a mass media news company, ultimately leading to MySpace’s demise in 2005.

2003 - 2011


Hot on the heels of MySpace, the social media scene started to really burst at the seams with the inception of Zuckerberg's brainchild, Facebook, which was first dubbed Facemash in 2003 and became known by its recognizable moniker today in 2005. 

A year later, we saw the social media hatchling Twitter come on the stage, which has since been renamed “X” after Elon Musk purchased it in 2022.   Another powerhouse social media platform, LinkedIn, was rolled out for public use in 2006.

The “Wild West” of social media appeared pretty calm for a few years until 2010, when we saw the advent of more complex and robust platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, which rely heavily on visual influence to compel user audiences.

Time travel to 2011, and we see even more heavy hitters such as Snapchat, Google Plus, and Twitch - all of which were vying for the attention of social butterflies online to drive audience attention.

The Dawn of a New Era: Introducing Decentralized Social Media

While all of the forenamed social media platforms continued to slog along under burgeoning demand, a silent yet powerful new era was brewing in the background.  We’re talking about decentralized social media (DeSo), which first started making a stir on the internet in 2010, and is now becoming an appealing alternative to conglomerate social media platforms.

But what is decentralized social media, and why could it be a major contender in the history of social media?  DeSo uses innovative blockchain-based platforms that revolutionize the topography of social media.  Unlike centralized social networking, DeSo’s key feature is that it places ownership of content creation squarely where it belongs - in the hands of the users and creators.

There are other advantages to modern-day decentralized social media.  The most important among these advantages is a less invasive experience for users because DeSo doesn’t rely on pesky advertisements to fund the platform.  Moreover, DeSo is acclaimed for its radical protection of user privacy and for the preservation of factual data. Alternatively, centralized social media has gotten a bad rap for twisting facts (fake news being a prime example) and abusing or violating user privacies.


So, will decentralized social media be the final chapter in the history of social media?  That’s not likely.  A more accurate prediction is that DeSo is just another chapter in online socialization that, we suspect, will develop into yet another rendition or improvement.  As long as there are people who need to share in a convenient, virtual environment - there will always be another evolution in online social media.