Friday, Mar 01, 2024

Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company

Celebrating 20 years since its inception, Facebook has transformed from Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard dorm room project to a tech giant valued at over $1 trillion.
Despite its significant growth and contributions like connecting people and aiding small businesses, Facebook has faced numerous controversies, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, accusations of election meddling, and insufficient safeguards against dangerous content.

Sky News reflects on the past two decades and ponders the future of the social media behemoth.

Facebook, now a daily habit for billions, started as a college-exclusive platform named "" in 2004. It soon became a mainstream sensation, outpacing the likes of MySpace, and avoiding initial monetization.

Controversy struck early when Zuckerberg was accused of stealing a similar idea from Harvard peers, leading to a $65 million settlement in 2008. By year's end, the platform boasted a million users.

In 2005, Facebook introduced photo uploads and albums, evolving with the 'profile picture' concept. Zuckerberg also streamlined the brand by purchasing the domain.

The following year marked a shift to a broader audience, with the launch of the news feed and a mobile site, predating the first iPhone. The year 2006 also brought Facebook's first significant controversy due to privacy issues with the Beacon advertising feature, which was later amended.

Through 2007 and 2008, Facebook innovated with features like video uploading, ads, the Marketplace, and launched its instant messenger. It also faced a data breach revealing millions of birthdates. The 'like' button arrived in 2009, complimented by tags to compete with Twitter.

By 2010, Facebook hit 500 million users, added groups, and watched "The Social Network" film criticize its origins. Legal challenges began in 2011 with the FTC suing Facebook over privacy, a battle persisting into 2023. The platform's interface changed from a 'wall' to a 'timeline' in 2011 as well.

Strategic acquisitions characterized the early 2010s for Facebook, including Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion. The platform's user base reached one billion in 2012.

Between 2013 and 2018, Facebook experienced multiple data breaches and the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, which culminated in Zuckerberg testifying before Congress.

Nick Clegg, former UK Deputy Prime Minister, joined Facebook in 2018, rising to President. Further data breaches tarred Facebook's reputation through 2019.

In an effort to rebrand and pivot toward new technologies, Zuckerberg announced the Meta umbrella in 2021, covering Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and future ventures in the Metaverse.

The UK's scrutiny of online safety policies intensified in 2022, as Facebook was implicated in a tragic case of a 14-year-old's suicide due to harmful content exposure.

Entering 2023, Meta's investments in the Metaverse proved costly, leading to extensive job cuts, and initiating a proactive stance against rivals like Twitter with new subscription services and apps. The FTC continued to challenge Meta over privacy issues.

By 2024, Meta pledged to improve safety measures against harmful online content and started offering shareholders dividends—a decision that significantly boosted its stock value.

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