The Early Days of Your Favorite Social Networks

Wondering who sent the first Tweet or posted the first pet photo to Instagram? The answers may surprise you (and are definitely cute, when it comes to pets).

In 1844, Samuel Morse sent the phrase "What hath God wrought!" down the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line, inaugurating the age of person-to-person electronic communications. In the last decade or so, the social aspects of the Internet have really flourished. Where are the equivalents of Morse's famous Biblical quote in our modern social media services? We hunted down some of the earliest communications and profiles across a variety of famous social sites.

First instant message: Ted Leonsis to his wife, 1993

AOL's Instant Messaging and chat services were in many ways a predecessor to functionality we see in modern social networks (and perhaps we can be thankful that "friends" eclipsed AIM's more juvenile "buddies" in the lexicon). Thus it's fitting that the first AIM message was sent from husband to wife. Ted Leonsis, who would go on to become an AOL exec, got this message to pop up on his wife's monitor: "Don't be scared ... it is me. Love you and miss you." How romantical! "This is so cool," she wrote back.

First Slashdot account: CmdrTaco, 1997

Slashdot's discussion areas and user accounts were the granddaddy of the modern social Web. Slashdot user IDs were assigned chronologically, with the upshot being that people with lower numbers were users who had been around longer (and thus had more geek cred). It's no surprise that user number one was the site's founder, the now retired Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda. Perhaps of more interest is this chart showing the drop-off rate for the first 1,000 Slashdot users; as of August 2011, only about 300 remained active.

First MySpace user: "Ducky," 2003

This is a story with some caveats. The URL of MySpace accounts used to show you the order in which users joined the site. At some point, someone snooping at the thelongestlistofthelongeststuffatthelongestdomainnameatlonglast.com found that the lowest MySpace account number -- 2 -- belonged to "Ducky," who thinks your band sucks, and whose profile can be seen here. The current revamped version of MySpace just has usernames in profile URLs, and the "ducky" username now belongs to "Ducky Distortion," who has a restricted profile. The same person? The first MySpace user? You'll have to join MySpace to find out! (We're all just surprised it's not Tom, obviously.)

seeb/Flickr (One-Time Use)

First Flickr image: "Test Image," December 2003

The very first photo uploaded to Flickr was a test image that was appropriately just the words "Test Image," put up on the site by Cal Henderson, then the company's chief software architect. (Henderson is color blind and has worked on making the Web more accessible to color blind folk, which may explain the odd green-on-grey color scheme.) The first "real" photo, uploaded later the same day, was this adorable picture of Flickr founder Caterina Fake's dog.

First Facebook profile: Mark Zuckerberg, early 2004

It makes sense that Facebook's founder would also have the site's oldest profile. Back before Facebook adopted user-chosen URLs, you could see that Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook ID was 4, meaning his current profile was the fourth created. Accounts 1 through 3 have vanished in the mists of time now; presumably they were test accounts, with (we hope) hilarious fake names attached to them.

YouTube founder Jawed Karim's YouTube account contains one and only one video -- and it's the first one ever uploaded to the site, though for a long time it wasn't public. Karim stands in front of the elephant cage at the zoo, makes a vaguely off-color joke about the length of their ... trunks, and that's it. A goat bleats in the background. Fin! What can you follow that up with, artistically, except maybe a sale to Google that makes you a multimillionaire by the time you're 27?

First tweet: Jack Dorsey, March 2006

Twitter was still the vowel-less "twttr" back when company co-founder Jack Dorsey announced the world that he was setting up his account. Well, to whatever tiny portion of the world was listening to him, anyway. By using the microblogging service to breathlessly narrate the mundane process of fiddling with something computer-y, Dorsey effectively set the tone for the site.

First Pinterest pin: "A perfect idea for a Valentine's gift," January 2010

Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann has the site's first account and put up the first-ever pin in January 2010, and it's hard to get more Pinterest-y than a photo of a cute paper-cut from Etsy, with a notation that it'd make a great Valentine's Day gift. Silbermann felt his California friends didn't get the site when he sent a link to them; many of the earliest users came from his home town of Des Moines, where his mother, a doctor, was pitching it to her patients.

First Instagram photo: This adorable dog, July 2010

What is it with social photo-sharing sites and adorable pet pictures? Oh, wait, never mind, that's pretty obvious. In July of 2010, Instagram was an app called Codename and wasn't available to the public, but it did have this picture of a happy dog and somebody's foot. (The photo was uploaded by company founder Kevin Systrom, and we're going to guess that both belong to him.) By the time the company was ready to celebrate the second anniversary of this photo, it had already been bought by Facebook for $1 billion.

First Google+ account: Raj Pudota, June 2011

Google+ had only been live for a few weeks when Brian White decided he wanted to know who owned the earliest Google+ profile. White was a Google employee on the Search side of the operation, but instead of just going to his colleagues on the Google+ team and asking, he did some mucking around in Google's sitemaps and robots.txt files and declared that the earliest profile (probably) belonged to one Raj Pudota. Pudota is mysterious: that profile is basically empty, containing only a link to a nonexistent Picasa account. There's also a Twitter account in that name that only has three tweets.

First Vine shared: "#howto make steak tartare," January 2013

Unlike many services on this list, Vine came prepackaged as a Big Deal, as the company was bought by Twitter and buzzed about in the industry before anyone had actually seen a Vine video. And so when the first video premiered -- it was put up by Vine founder Dom Hofmann and featured a rapid-fire depiction of steak tartare being prepared -- it was unleashed upon the world in a tweet from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo himself.