Facebook turns ten years old

Facebook – the project that began in a student’s dorm and went on to become one of the greatest internet success stories of all time – is celebrating its 10th birthday.

In the last decade, it has attracted millions of people who use it to communicate with friends, post updates on their life, share photographs, change their relationship status, or to simply click ’like’.

Last week, the social network heavyweight reported record revenues of US $2.5bn (€1.85bn) from 750 million daily users – a revenue rise of $1bn (€0.74bn) on the same period last year.

But the road that led the US company to its position as a multibillion-dollar global powerhouse has been far from smooth, and many question whether or not it will survive another 10 years.

Its story began in February 2004 when Harvard psychology student Mark Zuckerberg launched the social networking site from his room.

The keen computer programmer had already developed a number of networking websites for fellow students, including Coursematch, which allowed users to view people taking their degree, and Facemash, a website that asked users to judge students by how attractive they were.

But it was Thefacebook.com – as it was originally called – that proved the instant hit, allowing Harvard undergraduates to create basic online profiles and display personal information and photos.

Within a month, more than half of the student population had an account and soon after the social network started its expansion to other colleges and universities across America.

By the end of 2004 young technology mogul Mr Zuckerberg and the early Facebook founders decided to move their headquarters to the sunny climes of California and began developing the site after catching the eye of a number of wealthy investors.

Facebook.com was purchased in August 2005 and the following month US high schools were allowed to sign up.

The buzz around the revolutionary website started to reverberate across the globe and its registration limits were scrapped in September 2006, but the lengthy legal battles which have marred its relatively short lifespan were already well under way.

Harvard student Cameron Winklevoss, his twin brother Tyler and friend Divya Narenya, claimed Mr Zuckerberg had taken the idea for Facebook when he was working for them as a programmer for their university social-networking site ConnectU.

The trio filed a lawsuit in September 2004 and following nearly four years of legal wrangling Facebook finally settled for a purported $65m (€48m) in 2008.

By this time the company’s estimated value had soared into the billions following investment from Microsoft and other high-profile capitalists and it had set up an international base in Dublin.

The website’s features had also dramatically developed over the years with the introduction of the like and poke buttons in 2009 and its highly popular newsfeed – which led to the first of many complaints about its privacy policy.

In June 2009 the company overtook Myspace as the leading online social network in the US, but Facebook was still dogged by criticism over privacy issues.

It later went on to admit it had violated users’ privacy by getting people to share more information than they agreed to before settling in court and making its policy more clear.

The meteoric rise of the site was immortalised on-screen in the 2010 release of The Social Network which documented the legal battle with the Winklevoss twins, who sought more money after the 2008 settlement before finally ending their battle in 2011.

The film also focused on Mr Zuckerberg’s relationship with co-founder Eduardo Saverin who was allegedly forced out of the firm before taking legal action against Facebook.

Warwick Business School assistant professor of Information Systems, Dr Markos Zachariadis, has researched the company and looks into innovation in social networks, and said Facebook is “now much more than a place to ’upload pics”’.

But he said the site could be in danger of another network coming along and threatening its current position.

“It is the largest social network in the world, but many are questioning whether it will survive another 10 years.

“Another innovation and network may come along to threaten its dominant position in the market, but Facebook is in a good position to expand and grow further, thus creating a strong ’network effect’ and adding new services to keep users engaged,” he said.

Dr Zachariadis added: “Security and privacy are two of the most important elements for the success of social networking sites in the near future.

“Who has access to our digital footprint and the data that we generate throughout our interaction with social platforms are important issues most networks will need to address based on local laws and international regulations.”

As of January 2014, the company has about 1.2 billion monthly users.

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