SixDegrees launched in 1997, the website was the first to allow users to create profiles, send invitations to friends and organize groups.

The SixDegrees website is considered the first social network on the web, launched in 1997, when the connection was still dialed. The service’s proposal, based on the theory of six degrees of separation, was for people to connect with strangers and form bonds of friendship – something unprecedented until then. The platform was a precursor to sites like Orkut , a social network that was very successful in the early 2000s, and Facebook , Instagram and Twitter , which are the most famous today.

The service was the first network to allow users to create profiles, send invitations to friends and organize groups. The site had around 3.5 million users – an expressive number for the time – but it did not survive for long. Still, it left its mark on the history of the Internet. Next, we lists seven curiosities about SixDegrees for you to learn more about the functioning of the world’s first social network.

1. It comes from the theory of six degrees of separation

The social network SixDegrees was named after the theory of six degrees of separation, which holds that each person in the world is six degrees from any other individual. In other words, it would take a maximum of six bonds of friendship for you to reach personalities like Bill Gates, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

The theory was put to the test by Facebook in 2016, 19 years after the creation of SixDegrees. In one experiment, Zuckerberg’s social network analyzed its base of active users and concluded: “each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion active users on Facebook) is connected to everyone else by an average of 3 , 5 degrees of separation ”.

2. It was the first network to allow the creation of profiles, sending invitations to friends and organizing groups

Launched in 1997, SixDegrees was the first social network to allow users to create profiles, send invitations to friends, organize groups and browse other people’s profiles. Although there were already chat services, such as ICQ , this connection model was something entirely new until then.

3. It reached more than 3.5 million users

SixDegrees has reached the mark of about 3.5 million users. The number may seem small compared to the metrics of current social networks, but it is quite significant if we consider that we are talking about the late 90’s.

4. Send emails to attract new members

In an interview with BBC Radio’s Witness History , SixDegrees creator Andrew Weinreich said the social network used e-mails to reach potential new members. “[The message] said ‘Nick, Andrew added you as a colleague or friend’, qualifying the relationship of the two people,” he explained. According to him, the email also asked the user to confirm the relationship and add new contacts.

The strategy may seem outdated today, but it made a lot of sense at the time. “Today you receive a new message and curse the spam that just got to your email. It turns out that in the beginning, the inboxes were not cluttered. Most people didn’t even receive emails, so we were happy to receive a new message “, commented Weinreich.

5. Had no photos

Can you imagine a social network without photos? Think about what it would be like to enter Facebook, for example, and not know what people’s faces are like because there is no profile picture. Certain social networks, in turn, would completely lose their sense without support for photographs, as is the case with Instagram .

If you could transport yourself to the late 90s and browse SixDegrees, you would probably find it very strange, since the social network had no photos. SixDegrees users themselves felt the need to have a photo associated with the profile, according to Weinreich in an interview with BBC radio .

“When we launched [SixDegrees] in the late 90s, most people didn’t have a digital camera. So we started getting requests like, ‘If I send a photo by mail, could you scan it?’ We did the job of trying to figure out what kind of assembly line we would need to build to scan photos and link them to people’s accounts. I wish we had been able to solve this problem, “said Weinreich.

6. Reasons for failure

In 1999, two years after its launch, SixDegrees was sold to YouthStream Media Networks for $ 125 million. The social network was disabled the following year. Although SixDegrees had millions of registered users, not all of them actively participated in the network. That’s because, in the late 90’s, the Internet connection was very unstable and limited. In addition, there were not many things to do in SixDegrees, whose functions were practically limited to adding friends.

Among the reasons for the failure of the service is also timing: before the turn of the millennium, there seemed to be no point in connecting with strangers. A few years later, however, people were already more receptive to the concept of social networking. Proof of this is that in 2003 MySpace was launched , which remained the largest social networking site in the world until June 2008.

7. Inspired other networks

The success of SixDegrees, albeit a flash, paved the way for the emergence of Friendster in 2002. The website used a concept of degree of separation very similar to that of the extinct social network, dubbed it “Circle of Friends” and promoted the idea that an online community can only exist between people who really have common interests. In the following two years, 2003 and 2004, MySpace and Facebook emerged , respectively. Both social networks took advantage of the architecture and incorporated features from SixDegrees.


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