top of page

Who Invented Social Media?

In the 1980s, processor chips were coming down in price and  going up in power. It was a good time to have gained a few of the right skills to set a standard for what was to come.

John "Tex" Coate (on Facebook in 2022):

"I was hired as the Marketing Director [for the WELL]. But I didn't know anything about marketing and we didn't have any money. So I realized that what we all were really doing was building meaningful relationships with each other for a variety of purposes. I did whatever I could to help everyone experience this wonderful benefit of what were otherwise cold computers connected by wires. And if that experience was meaningful enough to the people using it, they would market it. And they did. This ability to have a deeper meaning via networked computers collecting around a fairly stable group of people, was the birth of "online community," a phrase I coined in 1986 for a poster at a computer fair booth. It must be said that there were a lot of journalists who enjoyed free accounts and used it back then the way they use Twitter today...ear to the ground and a place to float ideas and drafts and get their name better known. The free accounts for journalists was brilliant marketing, but it wasn't my idea. That was Stewart Brand. But it was my honor and privilege to introduce people to each other more than 30 years ago who today remain each others' best friends.

"Back to the "online community" thing...I think I hit on that phrase after years of insistence that we at the Farm weren't a commune but a community. It was pretty well drilled into my head, so it made sense that I would depict what was going on at The WELL as a "community." Now it is a standard phrase. Like a lot of things, such as my design of a web-based news site that is still the basic model used worldwide, it's pretty obvious in retrospect, and surely others would have done the same soon enough. But I/we got there first. Nobody much cares in the USA, but I get a lot of props for it in history-minded Europe where being first matters."

John Coate and Cliff Figallo, 1988

Although Bay Area counterculture and Silicon Valley are often treated as cultural poles, Mr Beckerman unites them in an affectionate portrait of John Coate, godfather of social media, who started a chat network on a primitive computer from a boathouse in Sausalito in 1985.
The Economist, Feb 12, 2022
bottom of page