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Six folded completely just after the turn of the millennium.

Other sites of the era opted solely for niche, demographic-driven markets. A product of Community Connect Inc., which itself was founded just one year prior in the New York apartment of former investment banker and the future Community Connect CEO, Asian was followed by Black in 1999 and by the Hispanic-oriented Mi in 2000.

Indeed, some services – such as Tom Jennings’ Fido Net – linked numerous BBSes together into worldwide computer networks that managed to survive the Internet revolution.

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Within a year after its launch, Friendster boasted more than three million registered users and a ton of investment interest.

Unfortunately, the service has since seen more than its fair share of technical difficulties, questionable management decisions, and a resulting drop in its North American fortunes.

But it also offered something few had ever experienced – true interaction.

Not only could you send a message to your friend via a newfangled technology dubbed “e-mail” (granted, the concept of e-mail wasn’t exactly newfangled at the time, though widespread public access to it was).

It was, in effect, a breeding ground for pocket-protector-wearing societal rejects, or nerds. Yet it also was during this time, and with a parade of purportedly antisocial geeks at the helm, that the very gregarious notion of social networking would take its first steps towards becoming the omnipresent cultural phenomenon we know and love in 2014. Short for Bulletin Board System, these online meeting places were effectively independently-produced hunks of code that allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games (many times including pirated software) and post messages to other users.

Accessed over telephone lines via a modem, BBSes were often run by hobbyists who carefully nurtured the social aspects and interest-specific nature of their projects – which, more often than not in those early days of computers, was technology-related.

All three still exist today, with Black in particular still enjoying tremendous success with more than eight million visitors per month.

In 2002, social networking hit really its stride with the launch of Friendster.

An interface that shared many of the same traits one would find at an online dating site certainly didn’t seem to hurt.

Friendster CEO Jonathan Abrams even once referred to his creation as a dating site that isn’t about dating.

Learn more about how transgender public figures, including Chelsea Manning, Jen Richards, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner, Chaz Bono, and others are shaping and pushing forward the agenda of the LGBT rights movement.

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