On February 4, 2004, thefacebook.com went live for Harvard members, before being rolled out to other academic institutions, and then in 2006 allowed people without a .edu email account to join.
It’s now got over 1.1 billion active monthly users, nearly 950 million active mobile users, and nearly a third of them only access via mobile.
Dan Calladine, Carat's Head of Media Futures, picks out the five key events and features since 2004 that have helped make Facebook so popular and central to so many people’s online experience.
Facebook first introduced the newsfeed in September 2006, taking content that had previously existed on your own page (similar to MySpace) and instead giving everyone a page made up of a collection of their friends updates. It was controversial at the time, as people suddenly realised that all of their friends could see their updates in their own stream, but it’s impossible to imagine Facebook without it.
Chat was introduced in April 2008, allowing people to talk to each other in real time, rather than messaging. In the five years since then it’s dealt a body blow to other web chat services like MSN Messenger, and has since gone mobile, although Facebook is now feeling pressure in this area from newer services like WhatsApp.
Likes were introduced in February 2009, and really established Facebook’s presence on other sites throughout the web, with little buttons that linked back to the site, and allowed you to ‘Like’ all aspects of life from films on IMDB, to sports teams, to music and books. It also enables sharing onto Facebook very easily.
When Facebook had its IPO in May 2012 one of the concerns was that it had no dedicated mobile ads. A month later they launched for the first time, and now, 18 months later, mobile ads account for 53% of its rising ad revenue. This successful monetisation of the mobile users has helped the share price rise to 80% over the IPO price.
Paper was launched on February 3, just one day before Facebook's 10th birthday, and marks a change in the mobile strategy. Facebook has had a mobile app since the early days of the iPhone in 2007, but over time, it’s become quite unwieldy, with lots of different options hidden away. Paper is a step towards ‘unbundling’ the app and making it easier for mobile users to just see the news feed, but in a much more engaging way.
However... not everything has gone to plan. Here are a couple of features that Facebook probably hoped would be more popular:
Facebook Home was a mobile app for Android that made Facebook central to your phone, including dominating the main screen, wallpaper and more. Launched in April 2013, it’s still only available on a handful of devices, and according to the Play store has only had between 1 and 5 million installs.
Again launched to great fanfare, Graph Search was introduced in 2013 to allow people to search through Facebook to find results specific to the user, based on things that their friends had recommended and so on. A year on it doesn’t really seem to have taken off, and has only just arrived on mobile devices.
These are small points in Facebook’s amazing journey though. In ten years they’ve created one of the most popular digital services, one that is central to many people’s lives, and done this through continual development, experimentation and change. Here’s to the next ten years!