The short-lived social media sites that never made it
While some social media sites seem entrenched into our Internet landscape, solid and immovable, it is important to remember that the success of sites and apps like Instagram, Youtube and Facebook were not inevitable. Many sites lived and died in their quest for eternal social media glory, living fast, dying young and generally not doing it well. In this column I will document the brave fallen who attempted the impossible dream of becoming the next Mark Zuckerburg.
The first social media site I saw fall was one I held dear to my heart: Bebo. Launched in 2005, Bebo was a sort of Myspace rip off, where one could post blogs, music, videos and photographs, all while interacting with your friends’ profiles. This was really popular in my high school, and teenage politics were orchestrated through top 6 friends lists and giving ‘Love’ to each other. On Bebo, one could show their allegiance and popularity by giving their friends a love heart, to be displayed on their profile. The more ‘Love’ you had, the most popular you were. I did not receive any ‘Love’ on Bebo. I’ve never recovered from the shame.
But Bebo had to die. Myspace was already on the decline, and Facebook on the rise. All the cool teens of my high school made the jump over to Facebook, leaving me in the cyber-dust. Bebo was a beautiful, messy site, filled with flashing gifs, viral videos and ‘I made you a cookie but I eated it’ pictures. It as the epitome of 2007, and therefore could not last. It went bankrupt in 2013. I’m surprised it lasted that long.
2014 was a different time. Pre-Trump, pre-Brexit, pre-GUU’s Hive. It was my first year at Glasgow University, and something was taking the campus by storm. A simple app with a simple concept: post anonymously what you want for everyone in your local area to see. This was YikYak. It was a forum to post whatever you wanted, and no one would know. You could post funny jokes, ask about Dominos discount codes, or just let people know how horny you were, and no one would know it was you. As a lonely fresher it was a way to feel like you were connected to the rest of the uni. No one knew who you were, and everyone was on an even playing field.
As YikYak grew in popularity, it had to change to meet the demands of the market. This meant adding accounts and usernames. Unfortunately this destroyed the only point of the app: that it was anonymous with no accounts. This foolish move meant YikYak died quickly, now existing only in our conversations of ‘remember YikYak? That was weird, right?’
The final social media that never came to be is much more recent. It was a website created to challenge one of the biggest names on the Internet: Youtube. Youtube is a flawed website, with a multitude of issues affecting both content creators and content watchers. Luckily, in the summer of 2017, a website was launched in direct competition to it, one that worked with creators, a website that advocated for total freedom. This was VidMe. It was basically a knock-off Youtube, trying to set itself apart from the video streaming monolith by doing something Youtube would never do: advocate total free speech.
Immediately and predictably VidMe was quickly filled with videos championing free speech, which in this case means transphobia, homophobia and racism. Trending videos were entitled things like ‘The Problem of Women in our Community’ and ‘POLITICALLY INCORRECT!!!’ VidMe soon collapsed, unable to shake its toxic community, and closed down in December 2017.
Honorable Mention: Vine
Before I finish this column, I would like to offer a honorable mention. Of course, Vine. Vine was cut down in its prime, and during its short lifetime it offered many spectacular 6 second videos, which have now been memorialized in the thousands of ‘RIP VINE’ compilations on Youtube. Rest In Peace, Vine, gone but definitely not forgotten. Because apparently they’re making a “Vine 2”.
Social media sites are never forever. As well established as Facebook and Twitter are, one day they will fall and be replaced by the new thing, and 20 years from now we will look back and reminisce on their passing. Many social media sites have carved out their space on the Internet, only to crumble and disappear, leaving nothing but code and memories. The Internet is always changing and evolving, and sometimes it is good to remember how previous social media sites have contributed to what the Internet is today. For better or for worse.