Facebook is still thriving 20 years later. Here’s how
On February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard University student, introduced TheFacebook.com, a social networking site to his fellow students.
Twenty years after its launch, social media giant Facebook continues to show unprecedented staying power after burying early competitors like MySpace and Friendster and establishing a distinct foothold in the burgeoning social media landscape. With over 2 billion daily active users, Facebook has maintained great relevance, often taking center stage in many of our cultural and political discussions.
Facebook set itself apart from other early social platforms through its initial exclusivity and its emphasis on turning social relationships into a game through “likes,” comments, shares, and friend counts, aided by a news feed that kept users informed of the lives of their friends and acquaintances.
“From a cultural point of view, there has been a very clear trend toward gamification of social relations,” said Pablo Buczkowski, a professor in Northwestern University’s Department of Communication Studies who studies digital culture. “Facebook has taken advantage of that and intensified it into society through its success. You can check out what other people in your peer group have and compare yourself to them, in a way that you can’t really do in your personal life.
In 2004, Facebook was a Harvard-only site. Over the next few months and years, the site expanded, first allowing students from other colleges and universities to sign up, then high school students and professionals with corporate email addresses. By 2006, many of its original users had outgrown their initial demographic, prompting Facebook to create a broader membership network.
“We already have two years of alumni, and more than a third of the people who use the site are not in college anymore,” Zuckerberg said. The New York Times In 2006, right before the site opened its doors to anyone over the age of 13. “If we make it so other young people can use the site, it enhances the experience for everyone.”
Its early understanding and focus on youth made Facebook’s tone a space for millennials to keep up with their family, friends, and friends of friends, to announce major and minor life updates, and to broadcast their opinions on just about anything.
Strong social connectivity was the backbone of Facebook, setting it apart from other primitive social media sites.
While MySpace gained popularity by allowing users to create profiles and meet new people, Facebook’s priority was to expand networks through real-life acquaintances.
MySpace, which was the most popular social networking site between 2005 and 2008, also focused on music, with artists posting their songs on the platform and users curating playlists and sending songs to their friends online. The platform has tried to establish itself as a music destination.
Far behind Facebook, a new team of investors, including singer Justin Timberlake, bought the platform in 2011. MySpace later launched a free music player with access to 42 million songs — what the company said was the best music player. The largest collection of free music on the Internet.
It was too little, too late. The number of monthly active users on MySpace declined to an estimated 35 million in mid-2011. According to a Comscore report at the time. In contrast, by September of that year, Facebook was witnessing this Nearly 800 million monthly active users.
A server migration error in 2019 was the death knell for MySpace, although the platform is still active. The defect resulted in a loss 50 million songsincluding audio and video files, uploaded by users over the past 12 years.
Friendster, a social networking site launched in 2002, also failed to survive, ceasing operations in June 2015 after transitioning to a social gaming site years earlier. Facebook was similar to Friendster in its focus on maintaining connections with friends and sharing common interests.
but 2013 study Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich found that the main factor that led to the collapse of the site was the lack of strong connections between its new members, which weakened the social fabric and flexibility of the platform, which relied on active participation among users.
Researchers also blamed Friendster’s design and configuration for its decline. “Sometime in 2009, Friendster introduced changes to its user interface, coinciding with some technical issues and the rise in popularity of Facebook,” they wrote. “This led to a rapid decline in the number of active users in the community, ending when it was discontinued in 2011.”
The birth of Meta Platforms, Inc.
As MySpace and Friendster ran out of steam, Facebook was gaining momentum through innovation and acquisitions.
“In a rapidly changing sector of the economy, surviving for 20 years is a remarkable achievement,” Buczkowski said. “It seems to me that Facebook as a company is pretty good at trying to listen to what customers want and provide an improved product. It’s been very smart and successful.”
Buczkowski pointed out that updating the user interface and design is not absolutely necessary for the success of digital companies, noting that “Google has not changed relatively much. You see a lot more changes in social media companies.”
When it comes to Facebook, “you see a lot of changes over the years, and not all of them have been successful, but you see today’s platform is very different from what you started with,” he said.
In April 2012, the company acquired the photo-focused social media platform Instagram for approximately $1 billion. Just one month later, Facebook went public at $38 per share. On Friday, shares of Meta Platforms Inc. rose.dead), which took the name in 2021 as the parent company of Facebook and other apps, closed at around $475.
Part of Meta’s staying power can be attributed to its investment in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which it bought in 2014 for $16 billion. The company also entered the tech hardware business in 2014, purchasing virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion.
“For a very large portion of the world’s population, being able to use a carrier for free is an incredibly cost-effective investment,” Boczkowski said of WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in a large number of countries. India, Brazil, Argentina and Italy.
“By providing this service, the company is generating a significant level of critical mass. Users can reach everyone using this product,” he added. “Then the company collects data on how we use it and they come up with ways to monetize it.”
Meanwhile, Meta has not budged from its position as a social media leader, as Facebook and Instagram compete with TikTok.
While X, formerly known as Twitter, was embroiled in turmoil after a series of unpopular user policy changes last summer, Meta threads, Complete with a limited character count and a design similar to X. The goal of the app was to make room for Real-time conversations over the Interneta functionality that has long been the core selling point of the X.
Threads attracted tens of millions of daily users when it launched in July, though engagement has declined in the six months since.
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