(Note: This will be an ongoing series of posts, though I am not sure how many or how often. Just as often as I come up with something on this subject. I will still be posting other random subjects as I come up with them, as I chose to make this blog about whatever I think to write on)
Finding others online before MySpace, Facebook, Twitter...
It's now been nearly 15 years since the Internet became of wide use to people, and I was in my final year of college in 1996-1997 (I'd had my old Macintosh Performa since Christmas 1995 and would have it for 10 more years) since I actually got into the online world. I can say I've done most of what the Interent had to offer in its original days. E-mail, chat (through chatrooms and AIM), and posting on Usenet first through Deja News then through Google Groups, after Google acquired Deja's Usenet archive in early 2001 (am still posting to some of these groups, especially the one for the group Yes).
One of the first sites I discovered was an e-mail directory called WhoWhere. Remember this? It was immediately one of my most visited sites in the early web days of the late 1990s. I put my then-current e-mail address on the site and would often look for random people, sometimes based on interests. I got a few replies. You were allowed to create a profile containing interests, hobbies, etc, and you could also write a personal message. I remember writing such a message in which I asked anyone I knew from school who finds me to send me an e-mail. Unfortunately, the only time this worked was with someone I never wanted to hear from again--can we please just leave at that? He said "I'm writing as you requested." Ugh, I though when I received this e-mail in 1998. About the only other e-mail I recall receiving from someone through this site was around 2001. I don't remember the subject, but the sender informed that he or she had found me in the "Lycos e-mail directory." Lycos had acquired WhoWhere in 1998. Here's what remains of WhoWhere now. I hadn't viewed the site since about 2002, so when I looked it up sometime ago, I was suprised to see the link above, with the logo that on the site when I first discovered it in 1996.
Another e-mail directory from the early Internet days was Four11.com, which Yahoo used for its people search before eventually buying Four11, relaunching it as Yahoo People search and discontinuing the original site. I used that one less frequently, but did include myself on this one as well. I managed to find a few people I knew from school on Yahoo, a few more than I found on WhoWhere.
And I discovered Classmates around 1997 and added myself to that one as well. It wasn't unitl 1999 that I started receiving e-mails form classmates who'd seen me on the site. One from a classmate who's been living in Minnesota (I live in the central coast area of California) whom I had not thought much about until then and and another e-mail form another classmate who informed me and this other classmate of our 10-year high school reunion that year (our 20th is this year).
This was how you found people you knew on the Internet in the days before MySpace and Facebook. Unfortunately e-mail directories did not get all the publicity that Facebook and MySpace would eventually get. Thus the chances of finding classmates on e-mail directories were hit and miss. Whereas today, about half the people in your high-school graduating class are likely to be on Facebook or MySpace, perhaps both. Classmates is amazingly still around, but I have never been able to afford a gold membership and almost never visit it anymore--come to think of it, I'm not sure how often I visited it in the beginning.