Facebook is a social networking website, launched on February 4, 2004. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, a former Harvard student. Initially the membership of Facebook was restricted to students of Harvard College. It was subsequently expanded to MIT, Boston University, Boston College, and all Ivy League schools within two months. Many individual universities were added in rapid succession over the next year. Eventually, people with a university (e.g .edu, .ac.uk, etc.) email address from institutions across the globe were eligible to join. Networks were then initiated for high schools on February 27, 2006 and some large companies. Since September 11, 2006, anyone 13 or older may join. Users can select to join one or more participating networks, such as a high school, place of employment, or geographic region.
The site has more than 58 million active users (including non-collegiate members) worldwide, with membership expected to surpass 60 million users by the end of 2007. From September 2006 to September 2007 the site's traffic ranking increased from 60th to 7th, according to Alexa. It is the number one site for photos in the United States with over 60 million photos uploaded weekly.
The name of the site refers to the paper facebooks depicting members of the campus community that some U.S. colleges and preparatory schools give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus.
The site is free to users and generates revenue from advertising including banner ads and sponsored groups (in April 2006, revenue was rumored to be over $1.5 million per week). Users create profiles that often contain photos and lists of personal interests, exchange private or public messages, and join groups of friends. The viewing of detailed profile data is restricted to users from the same network or confirmed friends. According to TechCrunch, "about 85% of students in [previously] supported colleges have a profile [on the site]. [Of those who are signed up,] 60% log indaily. About 85% log in at least once a week, and 93% log in at least once a month." According to Chris Hughes, spokesman for Facebook, "People spend an average of 19 minutes a day on Facebook." In a 2006 study conducted by Student Monitor, a New Jersey-based limited liability company specialising in research concerning the college student market, Facebook was named as the second most "in" thing among undergraduates, tied with beer and sex and losing only to the iPod.
Origins and expansion
Mark Zuckerberg founded "The Facebook" in February 2004, while attending Harvard University, with support from Andrew McCollum and Eduardo Saverin. By the end of the month, more than half of the undergraduate population at Harvard were registered on the service. At that time, Zuckerberg was joined by Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes for site promotion and Facebook expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. This expansion continued in April of 2004 when it expanded to the rest of Ivy League and a few other schools. At the end of the school year, Zuckerberg and Moskovitz moved out to Palo Alto, California with McCollum, who had a summer internship at Electronic Arts. They rented a house near Stanford University where they were joined by Adam D'Angelo and Sean Parker. Soon McCollum decided to leave EA and help with the development of Facebook and a companion website, Wirehog, full-time. In September, Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, the owners of the social networking website HarvardConnection, subsequently changed to ConnectU, filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that Zuckerberg had illegally used source code intended for the website they asked him to build for them. Also at that time, Facebook received approximately $500,000 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel in an angel round. By December, Facebook's user base had exceeded one million.
In May 2005, Facebook raised $12.8 million in venture capital from Accel Partners. On August 23, 2005, Facebook bought the domain name facebook.com from the Aboutface Corporation for $200,000 and dropped "the" from its name. At that time the site was overhauled, a change intended to make profile pages more user-friendly, according to Zuckerberg. Also that month McCollum went back to Harvard although he continued to serve as a consultant and returned to work on staff during the summers. As before, Hughes remained in Cambridge while he performed his duties as company spokesperson. Then, on September 2, 2005, Zuckerberg launched the high school iteration of Facebook, calling it the next logical thing to do. While initially described as separate "communities" to which users needed to be invited to participate, within only fifteen days most high school networks did not require a password to join (although registration with Facebook was still necessary.) By October, Facebook's expansion had trickled down to most small universities and junior colleges in the United States, Canada, and the UK, in addition to having expanded to twenty-one universities in the United Kingdom, the entire Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) system in Mexico, the entire University of Puerto Rico network in Puerto Rico, and the whole University of the Virgin Islands network in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On December 11, 2005, universities in Australia and New Zealand were added to the Facebook network, bringing its size to more than 2,000 colleges and more than 25,000 high schools throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.
On February 27, 2006, Facebook began allowing college students to add high school students as friends due to requests from users. About a month later, on March 28, 2006, BusinessWeek reported that a potential acquisition of the site was under negotiation. Facebook reportedly declined an offer of $750 million, and it was rumored that the asking price was as high as $2 billion. In April, Peter Thiel, Greylock Partners, and Meritech Capital Partners invested an additional $25 million in the site. In May, Facebook's network extended into India, at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The following month Facebook threatened to seek costs of up to $100,000 from Quizsender.com for copyright infringement for allegedly copying the "look and feel" of Facebook. On July 25, new services were offered in the site that would potentially produce additional revenue. A promotion was arranged between Facebook and iTunes, in which members of the Apple Students group would receive a free 25 song sampler each week until September 30 in various music genres. The promotion's purpose was to make students more familiar with and enthusiastic about each service as fall classes approached. In the early half of August, Facebook added universities in Germany and high schools in Israel, (Haifa, Jerusalem, and Qiryat Gat) to its network. On the 22nd of that month, Facebook introduced Facebook Notes, a blogging feature with tagging, embedded images, and other features, also allowing the importation of blogs from Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other blogging services. This newly added feature also included the common blog feature of allowing readers to comment on users' entries. On September 11, 2006, Facebook became open to all users of the Internet, prompting protest from its existing user base. Two weeks later, Facebook opened registration to anyone with a valid e-mail address.
On May 10, 2007, Facebook announced a plan to add free classified advertisements to its website, making it a competitor with established online companies such as Craigslist. This feature, known as Facebook Marketplace, went live on May 14, 2007; Facebook launched an API that allows the development of applications to be used on the site, known as Facebook Platform.
In June, the partnership begun the previous year between iTunes and Facebook continued, with the download service again offering free music samplers through the Apple Students group.
In July, Facebook announced its first acquisition, purchasing Parakey, Inc. from Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt. In August, the company was featured in a Newsweek cover story by Steven Levy in the magazine's annual college edition. Facebook hired YouTube's former CFO Gideon Yu on July 24, 2007. Gideon Yu succeeded Michael Sheridan.
In October Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share in the company for $240 million. An outright sale of Facebook is said to be unlikely as founder Mark Zuckerberg would like to keep it independent.
On November 7, 2007, Facebook announced Facebook Ads; Facebook Beacon, a marketing initiative which includes a system for websites to allow users to share chosen information about their activities on the sites with their Facebook friends ; the capability of businesses to host pages on Facebook for various brands, products and services (Facebook Pages); a targeted ad serving program based on user and friend profile and activity data (Facebook Social Ads); and a service for providing businesses with advertisement analytic data including performance metrics (Facebook Insights). With respect to privacy, Facebook states that "no personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad," and that "Facebook users will only see Social Ads to the extent their friends are sharing information with them".Facebook Ads replaces the site's previous Facebook Flyers program. On November 30, 2007, it was reported that Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing had invested $60 million in Facebook.
On 5 December 2007, Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized for the way that Facebook launched the Beacon system, saying "The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends." Beacon can now be disabled through a new External websites section in Privacy.