The early days of the World Wide Web were remarkable. From my desk in Virginia in 1994, I could “log in” to a computer across the planet and get data on a topic of interest. It was a time of modems, tiny data pipes, and graphics made of typed characters. Receiving music through the web was a notion completely inconceivable at the time, as the bootleg cassette ruled–being traded through the mail.  

Things evolved rapidly in the late 90s, with USENET groups, Prodigy, AOL, Geocities, …all of these allowed people with specific interests to gather virtually to discuss their interests, whether they be computers, southern rock, bluegrass, television show episode guides, or Barry Manilow. Newsweek magazine, perhaps secretly worried about the long-term sustainability of print media, published around 2013 the now laughable headline piece “The Internet? Bah! Hype Alert: Why Cyberspace isn’t and will never be Nirvana”. Maybe Nirvana was a bad term to use, but how many print magazines do you get in the mail nowadays?  

The growth of digital media in the 2000s was explosive. While weblogs or “Blogs” were proliferating by 1997, and every middle school girl was chatting with friends over AOL Instant Messenger, we had seen nothing yet. With powerful demographics of tech-savvy youth, commercial interests rapidly jumped into the web, and websites proliferated by the thousands every day. By the time the “dot com” bubble burst, more than 70 million computers were hooked to the Internet. An excellent place to look at this history is the Wayback Machine (archive.org). You can type in a website at this site and see snapshots of the site, from its first days on the web to today. When I looked for examples of band sites on Wayback, most that I found began their web presences started to appear in the late nineties.

The term social media began to be used in the early 2000s, sites like Friendster started the efforts to be joined by MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Classmates, and iTunes, to name a few. Then, in 2004 Facebook was launched at Harvard and was soon proliferating at college campuses across the country. It was only a matter of time before Facebook was being used by high school kids, and eventually, to the chagrin of the Millennials, their parents.  

New social media sites continued to pop up, some using Facebook to proliferate their goods and music. By 2015, social media, in the forms of Facebook, Linked In, Reddit, Tumblr, Patreon, and Twitter had billions of users, with sophisticated mobile devices fanning the flames of use even further. Digital music sites using High Definition technology have come and gone, with Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify dominating the streaming scene.  

Today, blogs are passé–the technology has transferred almost entirely to handheld devices. There are big questions about the good and bad of social media and its role in misinformation and negative impacts, especially on youth. That criticism, in my eyes, is valid–changes must take place, or our society will continue to wallow in the darkness and hate that inhabits this wide virtual world. Music is a bright light in this muck–I try to stick to music or pictures of our home or friends when I use social media. There are excellent musical resources online, both sources for music and detailed analyses of every conceivable band and album.  

It seems that social networking, some forms at least, have peaked. Ask anyone under 25 if they use Facebook. While websites continue to be viable and remain so in the near term, especially for commercial usage, new social networking platforms are where the action is, such as Tik Tok and many niche social media sites. For older folks, platforms like Facebook continue to bring people together based on their personal preferences and relationships, good and bad.  

Let’s stick with music– If you want to get together with other people who like concert posters, you can join a concert poster group on Facebook. If that group doesn’t talk about the type of posters you collect, all you have to do is start your own group, and in a month or so, it could have a few hundred members. This goes for music groups of all kinds—band fans, concert pins, concert setlists, bootleg recordings, and festival alumni. If you can think of it, it can be a group. I’m in a bunch, including Steam Powered Preservation Society, Zappologists, All Things Pinja, NRBQ Appreciation Society, and True Broadband for Western Loudoun, to name a few. In the old website model, you would have to create the website, code it out, add a forum component… that’s a lot of work when in this new model, you can make the group on Facebook in a few seconds. These musical communities are what hold my interest. Who knows where things will go next or what the next killer app will be. We’ve come a long way in 25 years, and from here, it’s only onward and upward in directions we can’t yet imagine.

Check out my latest Giant playlist to hear what I am listening to at https://tinyurl.com/vw3c46rc.

Steve Chase is listening to the new Donald Fagen Live album in Unison.

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