The Internet was mostly dominated either by text-based sites or sites with low-quality images. The early years were dominated by static HTML pages and directory-forms of discussion forums and chat rooms. Advancement in technology led to an increase in the transmission of information, especially rich content, which also came with more interactive interfaces. It completely changed the Internet in the mid-2000s. The technology world christened the new form of the Internet the Web 2.0.
In looking back, it is safe to say that although speculative investment led to the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, it did speed up advancement in information technology. It was a loss for investors but it brought about monumental advancements in IT. The results are seen presently in the Internet.
What was left of the dot-com companies then started to focus on dynamic, interactive content assisted by faster and richer forms of content. The newer form of platforms in the Internet sped up the process although interaction was what the Web was supposed to do. It was almost in real time that the companies and the technology enthusiast were eager to make consumers the producers of content. What was a fairly controlled way of publishing for centuries was reversed when sites allowed users to become producers of content. User-generated content became the in-thing. Blogs began to surface all over the Web followed by Wikis and social networking sites. Then social media gradually entered the scene to become the next big thing in the Internet and the rest is history.
Social media in its current form is still evolving. It will take a few more years until some forms of regulation and Best Practices are applied by site owners. Content-monitoring and regulation negate the entire concept of user-generated content. However, the rise in fake news, hate campaigns, defamatory contents etc., is becoming a threat for humanity. Above all, the use of knowledge, especially psychology and microtargeting, to influence the masses is the most dangerous of all the demerits of social media. Studies by Stanford University and University of Cambridge in 2015 have shown that a computer can judge personality traits far more precisely than humans can. That too, just based on Facebook “likes”. What used to be a telephonic call exercise during the time of Clinton and Blair can now be achieved through data from social media and networking sites. The Trump elections and Cambridge Analytica scandal might just be the tip of the iceberg. It is time for the governments and regulatory bodies around the world to be very afraid and initiate proper mechanisms for control but without curbing the freedom of expression.