Happy birthday Facebook – the social network turns 10

November 11, 2014 : TECHFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Happy birthday Facebook the social network turns 10

For many people, February 4th 2004 will have been just another unremarkable day, but for one US student working in a dorm room at Harvard and a couple of friends, it was the day that changed not only their lives forever, but the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The student was Mark Zuckerberg and the project he was tapping away on at his keyboard was Facebook. And on this date ten years ago, he introduced it to the world. But not even the most blindly optimistic speculator could have predicted back then that a website designed to help college students keep in touch would go on to be one of the defining tech phenomenons of the decade.

And one thing that's undoubtedly propelled it even further into the centre of our lives has been the huge advances in mobile phones in the intervening years. Back when Zuckerberg was a fresh-faced 20-year-old being played by Jesse Eisenberg, brick-like designs were still very much the order of the day and the iPhone was just a white metallic glint in Steve Jobs' eye. 

But now we can upload photos, browse the internet and post status updates from anywhere, how we keep in touch with friends and family has transformed – and Facebook is right at the heart of that. In fact, Facebook announced last week it had 945 million active users in December 2013 that accessed the site via their mobile gadget.

The road to domination

Social networks weren't exactly a new thing, even back in 2004. You could have a MySpace page, for instance, and annoy all your friends with headache-inducing flashing colour schemes and loud autoplay music – many people were immensely grateful when Facebook sent that competitor the way of the Dodo. 

But the rise of Facebook to blow these out of the water has been incredible. At the start, you had to prove you were a student at one of a select number of universities just to get a login. Now, everyone and their mum has an account on the site – almost literally. 

From its humble dorm room origins, the site now has 1.23 billion users – more than one in seven of the population of the entire planet. Not bad for a site that isn't even old enough to get an account for itself yet (it'll have to wait for its 13th birthday for that).

Ups and downs

And it's not as if it's all been smooth sailing either. If you had to choose an adjective to describe it, it probably wouldn't be "universally-loved". Facebook has had more than its share of bumps in the road over the last decade, from concerns over its privacy to the now-traditional user outcry every time the site refreshes its look or adds a new feature.

The labyrinth of settings users have to go through to make sure their personal details are locked down has been a particular criticism – one that Facebook has sought to rectify through multiple changes to make it simpler. Many people still aren't convinced though.

It's much-anticipated launch on the stock market didn't exactly go to plan either, as shares plummeted in the first weeks of trading, leaving many investors out of pocket and commentators wondering if it wasn't all a case of the emperor having no clothes. There was even a site set up with a rolling ticker that allowed visitors to 'watch Mark Zuckerberg lose money in real-time'.

However, it's since recovered from this and its share price hit record highs in January – so Zuckerberg's bank account continues to overflow.

So what's next?

Inevitably, there are now questions surrounding the future of Facebook, and whether it can sustain its success. Some of its previous problems – such as the fact it couldn't seem to figure out how to make money off its mobile app – have been solved, but new ones are taking their place.

By now, pretty much everyone who wants a Facebook account has one, so its prospects for future growth might not be as good as in the past – at least in developed markets. In fact, some reports have suggested it may have the opposite problem. Let's face it, now that your auntie is using it to organise her coffee mornings, there's no denying it's lost some of its cool factor.

So will Facebook still be around to 'Like' its 20th birthday? Who knows, but perhaps we should look at what Zuckerberg himself has to say about the future.

He posted his thoughts on the milestone (on Facebook, naturally), saying: "I'm even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

"Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they'll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems."

This entry was posted in TECH and tagged on by sarahstooks
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