The History of Facebook: Part 1

In our previous post, Setting Up Facebook, we opened a new series all about the social media giant that is Facebook.

In this post, we begin this series on Facebook with Part 1 of their meteoric rise.

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What’s so special about Facebook that has made it so popular? To attempt to answer the question, and simultaneously help you become familiar with Facebook features, here are some important milestones in the meteoric rise of the site.

  • 2004 — Facebook releases the Poke feature with the note: “When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose.” Poke allows users to basically nudge one another virtually, kind of like a punch in the shoulder. Facebook sends a notification that tells the user they have been poked and gives them the option to poke you back. That’s about it, except that many people consider poking tantamount to flirting. In 2009, a woman was arrested for violating a protection order by poking another woman on Facebook.[1]
  • Fall 2004 — Facebook adds a feature which allows friends to write on a special section of one another’s profiles called the Wall. It also adds the Groups feature, which allows members to create groups and invite members to join.
  • September 2005 — Facebook opens membership to high-schoolers — MySpace’s primary audience. This may just have seemed a logical extension of the concept, but it proved to be a killer strategic move. With an easier-to-use (and easier on the eyes) interface, Facebook started to siphon off MySpace members who were tired of the garishness and apparent chaos of the site.
  • October 2005 — Facebook adds photo sharing of an unlimited number of photos and enables users to tag, or label users in a photo. MySpace only lets users upload 12 photos.
  • April 2006 — Facebook debuts mobile phone access.
  • May 2006 — Facebook creates private work networks. Some forward-thinking corporations were looking for ways to increase collaboration and communication across their vast enterprises. Today there are more than 20,000 networks of employees, from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service to Macy’s, McDonald’s, Time Inc., and the U.S. Marine Corps. Even MySpace has a corporate network of 22 employees on Facebook.
  • August 2006 — Facebook Notes, a blogging feature that allows tags and embeddable images is launched. Users were later able to import blogs from Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other blogging services.
  • September 2006 — Facebook opens registration to anyone with a valid email address. This was a bold move and one which was met with mixed reaction from the membership of mostly young people. It wouldn’t be the last time Facebook took a controversial unilateral action.

Facebook has a tenth of the active members as rival MySpace.

  • September 2006 — Facebook creates the News Feed feature. This innovation is now a standard feature on other social networking sites such as LinkedIn, and is the central feature of Twitter: a scrolling list of the comments, statuses, actions, and other activity of your friends. Facebook added this feature without warning or input from the membership. This caused a great hue and cry as a violation of privacy, despite the fact that information in the News Feed could previously be accessed by friends.Angry members used the Group feature to create a group called Students Against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook) that attracted nearly a million members. Of course, this served to cement the importance of Facebook among the protestors, and also widely publicized the News Feed feature itself.Zuckerberg posted an apology, saying “we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them,” and his staff worked around the clock for three days to add privacy features to News Feed. In May 2010, the company was granted a US patent on certain aspects of News Feed.
  • November 2006 — The Share feature, which allows members to post to their News Feeds from other Websites, launches on more than 20 partner sites.
  • February 2007 — Facebook launches Gifts, which allows users to send virtual gifts to their friends. Gifts costed a dollar each to purchase, and a personalized message could be attached to each gift. This feature was removed in August 2010.
  • April 2007 — Facebook debuts Status, which enables members to inform their friends of their whereabouts and actions by posting short status messages. Status has become a common feature of social networks ever since.
  • May 2007 — Facebook launches Marketplace, which lets users post free classified ads.
  • May 2007 — Facebook launches Facebook Platform including apps from 65 developer partners and more than 85 applications from developers such as Microsoft, Amazon, Red Bull, Washington Post, and Digg. Unlike MySpace, which inhibited third party app development, either by shutting them down or acquiring them, Facebook opens its core functions to all outside developers.

Facebook has 20 million users, is growing at a rate of 3 percent per week — adding 100,000 new
users a day — and is the sixth-most-trafficked site in the US.
Facebook’s photos app is the most popular photo site on the Internet.

  • September 2007 — Facebook bans breastfeeding pictures, causing an uproar among moms. The controversy rages for years.
  • October 2007 — Microsoft takes a $240 million equity stake in Facebook, valuing the company at $15 billion.
  • November 2007 — Serena Software adopts Facebook as their intranet.
  • November 2007 — Facebook launches Facebook Ads.
At year end, Facebook has more than 50 million active users.

Next up: The History of Facebook: Part 2

The History of Facebook: Part 1 is the 117th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 319. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2Infinite Pipeline book cover

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[1] ABC News’ article Tennessee Woman Arrested for Facebook ‘Poke’