Today marks the 5th 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 fastest growing social network with over 150 million people using it to connect with friends, relatives and co-workers around the world. It’s a company, a platform, a brand, a phenomenon, a veritable force of modern culture. The estimated value of the company is rumored to be north of $1-2B. Speculation abounds.
As I’ve mentioned in another article, some people live in Facebook, enjoying the “walled garden” environment where they can send messages, update their status, comment on other’s status, announce events, share photos, tag them, give gifts, chat, use custom applications, and play games — all in the 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, even 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.
- Jobseekers are using it to network with 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 “share on Facebook” links. Mine does at the bottom of this article.
- Celebrities, performers, and former Presidential candidates are members.
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. Nevertheless, people still continue to join and expand their personal network across work, school, and a variety of real and virtual associations. And it’s not just among Generation-Y. Though not the largest, the fastest-growing demographic as of this writing is the 35-54 year old segment. The 55+ demographic growth rate is reported to be the second-fastest.
Do you have a Facebook profile? Mine is here.
UPDATE: A fascinating story on Facebook at Fortune. Interesting but somewhat misleading statistics: Facebook got to 150 million users or purchasers in only 5 years, much faster than iPod, cell phone, TV or telephone. Those cost hundreds of dollars each. Facebook sign on is free.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian