Sunday, March 21, 2010


Facebook is a site that you probably traffic every day – just like everyone else. Facebook has now become ubiquitous, with everyone from your seven year old sister to your grandparents having a Facebook account, playing games on it, posting status updates every three seconds and commenting on all of your photos. But it wasn’t always that way.

Back in the Day
Some of you might remember way back when Facebook first started. Originally called theFacebook, it was founded by Mark Zuckerberg while he was a student at Harvard University in 2004. The name came from the booklets filled with student names and pictures that Harvard passed out to students at the beginning of every year to help them get to know each other. Little did he know it would soon take off, crossing into Stanford and Yale and later all across the country. In August 2005, they changed their name officially to Facebook and launched their site on the domain

(Photo: Inside of their new Headquarters in Palo Alto)

Back then, Facebook was only available to those who were part of a school, college, university, organization or company recognized by Facebook and your membership was verified through your email associated with that particular organization. When Facebook moved to include high schools in September 2005, you had to be invited by someone in that network in order to verify you were apart of that network. In September 2006, it opened to the general public, 13 and over. Facebook moved to its official headquarters in 2004 to Palo Alto, California, and had its own campus created in Palo Alto in 2009 .

Facebook Controversy
Facebook, as with anything else popular, has had a ton of controversy. Several companies had attempted to buy out Facebook, including most famously, Yahoo in 2006 for $1 billion dollars. Facebook and Zuckerberg turned it down, coining Zuckerberg as the “kid who turned down a billion” (Photo: Zuckerburg at Facebook Headquarters). Zuckerburg has also suffered lawsuits, including one from classmates who founded a similar social networking site called ConnectU and who claimed that Zuckerburg stole their code to create Facebook. In 2007, Facebook used a service that automatically placed ads in profiles that were based on profile content (despite the controversy this originally incited, this is still used today). Most prominently, Facebook changed their privacy policy in February 2009 so that they still owned any content user uploaded on the site, even if the users deleted it off their profiles and quit. Naturally, users rebelled and Zuckerberg offered an apology, clarifying that they changed it so Facebook would be allowed to share content with other users’ when the original user prompted that content to be shared.

Facebook Features
One of the biggest additions to Facebook has been features along with the Facebook platform and Facebook Markup Language, launched in May 2007 (Yes, Facebook has its own language). This allowed any user to develop new applications for Facebook and this is where all those extraneous game and quiz applications came from (Remember when Grafitti was one of the first new applications and EVERYBODY had it?). By late 2007, more than seven thousand applications had been created. Facebook itself launched a number of features, such as Events, Video and Gifts.

The Facebook platform was a major breakthrough for Facebook as a corporation. Before, Facebook was a boxed in application. You had to log in to view your messages. Facebook then started sending you emails that said you got a message, but you still had to log in to read it – keeping you inside the Facebook box. However, Facebook was afraid of going the way of so many applications that kept themselves shut off from interacting with outside applications (think AOL – once had 30 million subscribers and even had a movie “You’ve Got Mail”, but because they tried to keep subscribers inside their AOL box, they faltered. After all, when was the last time you heard someone using AOL?) Now, they’ve opened up the box with Facebook Connect, which allows you to utilize external services like Twitter to interact with your Facebook account, further expanding their user base. Facebook Connect is even planned to link up with Xbox3 and Nintendo DSi.

The Future of Facebook
With Facebook now the number one social networking site with 400 million members (overtaking MySpace – remember that?), where does it go from here? Well, Facebook is still producing tons of stuff. On February 2nd, 2010, Facebook released HipHop for PHP, which reduces the CPU usage on Facebook web servers on an average of 50%. They released it as open source, so anyone can now use it and change it up for their own.

There are also rumors that Facebook will soon be expanding their message box by producing their own webmail client to rival Gmail. If every Facebook user automatically gets a Facebook address, that’s over 400 million users that now have a new option for email – that’s a lot of competition. Facebook Connect will also be expanded so that Facebook Chat can be integrated with other instant messaging services.

The next big thing to come out from Facebook will be Facebook credits, where users can use real money to buy Facebook credits, which they can then trade in turn to buy virtual items in all of Facebook’s current 500,000 applications (they anticipate this will be particularly successful in the games like Farmville). 30% of the currency spent by users will go back to Facebook, increasing Facebook profit.

Then and Now
This is what Old Facebook looked like when it first came out

Facebook is now worth an estimated $7.9 billion with revenues anywhere from $300 to $500 million a year and it only continues growing. Facebook has come a long way from its origins of being a network for college students; today, 11% of users are over 35 years old and the largest growith in demographics is for users over 30 years old. Facebook used to be just for the US; now it’s available for users all over the world in over 50 languages. Facebook used to be simple with just a wall, pokes, photos and a status; now users can add countless number of applications and boxes to customize their profiles. Facebook has clearly gone through tons of changes and will continue to change. Have all of these changes have been good or bad? That’s for you to decide.

This is what New Facebook looks like now


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