History of Facebook: The Social Network at 10

HISTORY OF FACEBOOK

February 4 is the 10th birthday of the social networking site Facebook. What started back at Harvard — and initially only open to college students or those with email addresses that ended in .edu until September 2006 — Facebook is now the largest social network with over 1 billion people using it to connect with friends, relatives and co-workers around the world. Almost two thirds of the active users login daily. It is expected by 2015 the number of Facebook users could be larger than the population China. In January of 2009 it surpassed MySpace to become the largest social network in terms of US traffic. It is now the largest in the world, with most users outside the US. Increasingly users access it via mobile devices, with popular clients on many smartphones.

Facebook is a company, a platform, an ecosystem, a brand, a phenomenon, a veritable force of modern culture. There are over 9 million applications on Facebook. Facebook Connect has become a popular authentication protocol. Over 4 million businesses have active Pages on Facebook. Even the History of the Holidays has a Facebook Page, check it out here.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study Facebook is used by:

  • 57% of adults
  • 73% of those 12 – 17 years old
  • 27% of 18 – 29 year olds have more than 500 friends
  • 72% of users over 65 have 100 friends or fewer

As I’ve mentioned in another article, some people live in Facebook, enjoying the “walled garden” environment where they can send messages, leave voice messages, update their status, comment on other people’s status, announce events, share photos, tag them, give gifts, chat, use custom applications, and play games — all in this same environment, without using other services. Not only is Facebook becoming an aggregator of web services, it is also becoming the go-to location for clubs, groups, and churches where people can share publicly or privately their taste, ideas, opinions and interests. It’s becoming the new “social dashboard.”  This has exemplified and accelerated the Web 2.0 concept of “transparency” discussed in detail in Wired Magazine.

  • Recruiters are using an applicant’s “social graph” to ascertain suitability.
  • Job seekers are using it to network to previous fellow-coworkers and employers.
  • Friends are expanding their networks through friends-of-friends.
  • Parents are on Facebook to keep an eye on their children.
  • Older folks are using it to keep their finger on the “pulse” of what younger people are talking about.
  • Companies are using it to create online “buzz.”
  • Websites now sport “ShareThis” on Facebook links. Mine does at the bottom of this article.
  • Celebrities, performers, and the President are members.
  • During the State of the Union address it has become the back channel for comments.

Security and privacy issues continue to haunt Facebook — some foreign governments have blocked access in the past — and reflect members’ uncertainty in an increasingly networked and public world. The Privacy Policy is longer than the U.S. Constitution, and is about as frequently consulted by users. Facebook account hacking, spam, and phishing malware is more of a concern than even last year. Last year, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s fan page was hacked. Nevertheless, people still continue to join and expand their personal network across work, school, and a variety of real and virtual associations.

Do you have a Facebook profile? Mine is here.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

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2 comments… add one
  • Excellent article — it would be even better if you came up with some global conclusions or deductions, too. Not just giving the impressive facts, but putting them into a context with some observations of your own.

    Peter

    Reply
    • Peter,

      Thanks for dropping by. You ask for conclusions. How about “Facebook is a company, a platform, a brand, a phenomenon, a veritable force of modern culture.” You ask for observations. How about the 8 bulleted observations I listed?

      I’d be pleased if you added your observations on the subject of this article. You always have keen insights.

      -Bill

      Reply

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