Rachel Bilson

A brief history of some of the world’s biggest social networks

A brief history of some of the worlds biggest social networks

First published date January 14 2015 Amended date February 19 2016

We’ve all heard of good ol’ Facebook and Twitter but if you really want to show you know your stuff when it comes to social media, have a read up on some of these…


Site: QQ

Country:  People’s Republic of China

Users: 829 million

QQ started as an IM service and has grown to include online social games, music, shopping, microblogging and group and voice chat.  Whilst not as big as Facebook, which is currently blocked by China’s firewall, QQ’s reach is huge. Ironically, you can sign into QQ International using your Facebook account.


Site: Orkut

Country:  Brazil, India

Users: around 50 million, it’s hard to be specific and Google isn’t telling

Owned by Google, Orkut, the site that lets you evaluate whether your friend is ‘Trustworthy’, ‘Cool’ or ‘Sexy’ on a scale of 1 to 3 was big in Brazil and India. On the 30th of June 2014, Google announced that Orkut would be shutting down due to its inability to keep up with the likes of other Google products such as YouTube and Google+.


Site: sonico.com

Country:  Latin America (headquarters in Buenos Aires)

Users: 200 million

Sonico launched in July 2007 stressing the importance of authentic and verified users. Their motto is ‘real people, real connections’. To back this up Sonico has a team solely dedicated to check out every new profile and content uploaded to the site. In case you fancy getting away from the anonymous scoundrels on Facebook you should know that it is currently only available in Portuguese and Spanish.


Site: VK

Country:  Russia and CIS (HQ is St Petersburg)

Users: 280 million

Based in St Petersburg the site functions in three official languages: English, Russian and Ukrainian. Like many social media sites, VK allows users to join groups, send messages and upload videos. Unlike many social media sites, it has been at the heart of some political intrigue involving Vladimir Putin.


Site: Skyrock

Country:  France

Users: 21 million

They are cool, the French. As well as the standard sharing and posting functionality, Skyrock offers members a specific space for members to showcase their own musical compositions. In 2005 the breakout of civil unrest was attributed to Skyrock by some of the press. Well it wouldn’t be French without a revolution.


Site: Mixi.jp

Country: Japan

Users: 22 million

In contract to Sonico, Mixi is defined by anonymity, with users preferring nicknames and avatars to real-life photos.  In 2008, Mixi began ‘Celebrity Accounts’ in which celebrities who are on the social networking site are allowed to surpass the 1000-friend limit. Another interesting thing: in the Japanese culture there’s a specific expression – Mixi tsukare – to mean the feeling of being tired of using Mixi.


Site: Freindsreunited.co.uk

Country:  UK
Users:  24.4 million

More like a social networking site from another era rather than another country. Friends Reunited allowed users who had been to school or university to reconnect. Amongst the opportunities to reconnect and share in some nostalgic memories a new theme emerged when erstwhile lovers found they shared a future as well as past. Or as the Daily Mail put it, ‘A passionate affair with a childhood sweetheart destroyed two marriages and led to the first Friends Reunited murder.’


If any of these have inspired you to start your own social network or begin a career working in social media, start by checking out the range of courses available.

Useful links

Rachel Bilson

Rachel has worked in recruitment and marketing for education for the last 15 years. She has coordinated government campaigns to recruit teachers for maths and science and managed student recruitment from East Asia for two of the UK's leading universities. In her current role at London College of Communication she is developing short courses and professional training, drawing on the College's expertise as a world-leader in communication education. Between 2005 and 2007 Rachel took a break from daily slog to teach English in Japan. She still misses the food.