Facebook is 10! The social networking site this week celebrates ten years in action, and it’s been a decade of accelerated progress, huge changes in the we use technology… And plenty of ‘TMI’ status updates. When Facebook was launched, Nokia still dominated the mobile phone market, Pope John Paul II was still on the papal throne and Desperate Housewives was just about to debut. As the world changed, Facebook changed alongside it. And correspondingly; as Facebook evolved, the way we communicate evolved too.
When it launched, Facebook catered exclusively for students of Harvard University. After being rolled out to a few elite universities, it caught hold of the public imagination and today, anyone can join up (well not anyone – there are still some rules to abide by). The website has gone truly global, and has resisted the threats from rival sites such as Twitter: Facebook has stood the test of time and, indeed, surpassed anyone’s expectations.
There can be no doubt that the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg, who was just 19 when he first developed Facebook, is going from strength to strength. The company closed 2013 with a profit of $1.5 billion – with Zuckerberg’s personal wealth estimated at $30 billion! Yes, his work with Facebook has left the 29-year-old one of the wealthiest young businessmen in the world.
Despite being in its infancy this time ten years ago, Facebook now has 1.23 billion users worldwide. That is about a sixth of the population of Earth and roughly equal to India’s population. Its phenomenal growth in the past few years has no doubt been helped by the rise of the smart phone. Here is a look back at Facebook’s first decade in operation.
2004. – Launch
After helping to develop ‘fashmash’ – a doomed “hot or not” style website – Mark Zuckerberg launched his second venture, ‘thefacebook’, on February 4, 2004. The original website was a Harvard-only social networking site. Within a week of the launch, Zuckerberg was accused of plagiarism and was sued by three fellow Harvardians; the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra. The three seniors claimed that Zuckerberg had promised them to use the code and technology used to build thefacebook to help them develop a similar product.
By March of 2004, thefacebook had been extended to include more American universities. During this time, Zuckerberg was joined by Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes. They moved their headquarters to Palo Alto, California, and received their first invest of $500,000 in June 2004. In September, the user profile is expanded to include a ‘wall’ and allows easier communication between users. By December of that year, Facebook had acquired its 1 millionth user.
2005. – Drop the ‘The’
Early on in its second year, Facebook allows international colleges to join up. This is the first substantial increase in users. Throughout the year, more and more schools are added to the site. In May 2005, the company received a $13 million investment from Accel Partners, a sign of how quickly the network was growing. This is also the year that Facebook began to open to employees of companies as well as students, with the likes of Apple and Microsoft being added to the network.
In August 2005, the company acquires the facebook.com domain for $200,000. It expands from companies and universities and opens to high schools for the first time. It was also around this time that the photo feature was added. An unlimited amount of pictures were allowed to be added to a profile in October, without the ability to tag friends. This soon followed, in December.
2006. – News Feed
The rapid expansion continues. In 2006, the website was open to anyone over 13 who had an email address. This was also the year the news feed was introduced to the site, which caused some initial controversy. The idea of a news feed is that it gathers all of your friends updates and puts them together in one place, as opposed to seeking their updates on their individual pages. This was ridiculed criticized as a breach of privacy for users but went on to become one of the site’s most popular features. Today, Facebook has the technology patented under their name.
2007. – Zuckerbillions
2007 was a significant year for Mark Zuckerberg. Though by all accounts he was never motivated by money, it was just three years into Facebook’s lifetime that its co-creator’s personal wealth hit 1 billion dollars for the first time. This year also saw an announcement from Microsoft that they had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, meaning the total net worth of the company at the time hovered around $15 billion.
One of the most important developments for Facebook came in 2007. Platform was developed, which allowed external companies to develop photo sharing apps, games and quizzes, among other things. One of the big winners here was Zynga, the company behind the phenomenon ‘Farmville’ – a game that would take Facebook by storm in 2009.
2008. – Private Chat
Facebook further developed the inter-user communication in 2008 with the introduction of instant messaging in the private chat area. The inbox system had already been in place but users received their messages as email-style ones instead of instantly. This remains one of the most popular means of communication between users.
The same year, Facebook hits its 100 millionth user. Zuckerberg said in a blog post on the site, “the fact that we’re growing so quickly all over the world is very rewarding”. The company also expanded outside of the US for the first time, establishing its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. 2008 also saw Facebook settle the active court case with the Winklevoss brothers.
2009. – Like
A few now-familiar changes came in 2009 to make profiles more personal and user-friendly. The ‘like’ feature was introduced to comments, posts and photos as well as users being able to tag their online friends in their statuses for the first time.
This was the first year Facebook turned its cash flow positive, under Sheryl Sandberg’s reign as Chief Operating Officer. The ex-Google mogul had been hired by Facebook the previous year.
2010. – The Social Network
The legacy Facebook had built became ever more apparent in 2010 with the release of The Social Network. The film depicted the early years of Facebook’s founding, with Jesse Eisenberg portraying Zuckerburg. The film was a resounding success, winning three Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, while grossing almost $225 million worldwide. However, it depicted Zuckerberg in a negative way and he reportedly said at the time “I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive.”
2011. – Subscribe
By 2011, Facebook’s net worth had grown to $50 billion – and rising. Though profiles had long had the “relationship status” option, the option for “being in a civil union with” was introduced this year for same-sex partnerships. Already under threat from the likes of Twitter, there were rumours that Google’s new Google+ venture would damage Facebook’s appeal. This, as time has shown, has not been the case.
Users were allowed to subscribe to profiles for the first time in 2011, meaning they would receive updates on their newsfeed from profiles they were not connected to.
2012. – Instagram Acquisition
In 2012, Facebook users exceeded 1 billion. That was a growth of 900 million – or 90% – in four years. This was also the year that the company bought the growing image sharing site, Instagram, for an estimated $715 million.
During American President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, a picture was uploaded to his official Facebook account of him and his wife in an embrace. This has since gone on to be the most liked picture of all time, reaching 4.4 million.
On a less business-like side of things, Mark Zuckerberg married his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan!
2013. – Feeling…
After a period when mobile emoticons (like the popular ’emoji’ smileys) were incompatible with the computer site, Facebook launched a trial period of low-grade emoticons in January 2013. Following a successful trial, it was made universally applicable in April of last year. Stickers were also launched in the private chat feature for iOS users, which are similar to the previous emoticons but larger and more detailed.
It was around this time that Facebook introduced, too, the ‘feeling…’ option in a status. Now, users can share what they’re doing, feeling, seeing, watching… with the world, along with an appropriate smiley.
2014. – Lookback
On February 4, 2014, Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday. Today, one out of six people use Facebook (roughly 1.23 billion users worldwide). The average revenue made by the company per user globally is $2.14 – and $6.03 for American and Canadian users. Every day, 350 million pictures are uploaded to Facebook and there are 6 billion ‘likes’. Facebook sits proudly at the top of the list of most popular social networking sites worldwide. Twitter comes second – with just 500 million compared to Facebook’s 1 billion – so it is clear Facebook is here to stay. For the site’s birthday on thr 4th of February 2014, they allowed users to watch a personalised video which formed a retrospective of their Facebook lives through a /lookback function.
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