It's not only that you can't stop progress, it is getting to the point where it has become way too difficult to keep pace.  When I was writing Connecting With Consumers, just as I had begun to nail a description of some state of the art connected marketing tool, my email inbox would begin to fill with latest updates from WOMMA, Marketing Power, Knowledge@Wharton, Marketing Sherpa, Adrants Daily, Mashable, etc.  That's not a problem when you're maintaining a blog about this stuff, but when you're writing a book that is rapidly approaching your publisher's deadline, well, you want to get that last word correct, even if it is correct for only 30 seconds. At any rate, thanks to OnlineSchools.org, we now have an infographic summarizing the nearly four decade history of social media.  In their view, the transmission of the first email got it going, and as we know, social media has evolved dramatically over the ensuing years, particularly when you consider the snail's pace by which other communication technologies evolved (see the timeline of communication media below, courtesy of eudemic.com ).


As Ray Kurzweil has pointed out, technological change is exponential.  In his book The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil demonstrates how evolution 'creates a capability and then uses that capability to evolve the next stage.'  Think about the development of the computer and, subsequently, the Internet, and that makes a whole lot of sense.  Thus, perhaps it was tongue and cheek that the infographic ends with 'The End,' when in fact, it more appropriately should read 'Only The Beginning.'

Note: I've chopped the infographic into three slices to facilitate copying and use for presentations.  One glaring omission among many is June 1999 and the launch of Napster by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker - a platform that turned the music industry on its head and provided a key stimulus for peer-to-peer file sharing.  Once legal snafus doomed Napster as a free application, it was quickly followed by one emerging alternative after another, including my personal favorite, the epic Audiogalaxy.  Ah, those were the days.  Nowadays, there are bit torrents and uploading to storage sites.  The legacy of Napster's historic impact lives on in 'The Social Network' and Audiogalaxy has reappeared, albeit in a different Cloud-based guise.

Obviously, the OnlineSchools infographic creators have a pretty limited conception of social networking and thus what follows is dramatically oversimplified.  For a more complete single-slide history of social media, check out the one at crenk.com.