Facebook recently celebrated 10 years since Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room launch of the social network. It is hard to believe that a decade has passed since Facebook emerged as simply a place to connect with friends. It is now a meeting ground for over 1.23 billion people worldwide, and is still the world’s largest social network. It is currently valued at around $157 billion US dollars.
Many of us can’t remember how we ever lived without it. In a relatively short space of time, Facebook has infused itself into the daily activities of our lives in an impactful way. It is open on our desktops from sunup to sundown, and it is the place we go to find out who is celebrating a birthday, who is going on vacation, and who is engaged to whom.
In August 2008, Facebook reached 100 million active users, and by January 2009, it overtook MySpace to become the largest social network2. The same year, it introduced the now ubiquitous ‘Like’ button. In 2010, they added a ‘Places’ feature to compete with Foursquare. While many other social networks have come and gone and been gobbled up, Facebook is still the biggest in the world. It is also the largest single media platform in history; no other print or broadcast platform has ever attracted an audience of more than 1 billion users.
Founded in February 2004 by Harvard classmates Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Chris Hughes, and Andrew McCollum, Facebook’s rise to fame and glory was not always smooth sailing.
Amid a sea of controversy, a somewhat disappointing IPO in May 2012, ongoing concerns about privacy issues, plus anxious investors eager to capitalise on social ad dollars, Facebook is still thriving, although its long-term staying power was not always a fait accompli.
Facebook has made some smart moves as a company. They have poached a steady supply of Google talent to join their team over its decade of making friends, and some enemies. Perhaps most notably, Zuckerberg has managed to snag the highly sought-after Sheryl Sandberg for the role of COO. Sandberg, author of the best selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Deckle Press, 2013), is widely considered a true Renaissance woman who has the likes of US Senators and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, as well as Oprah and Bono, on speed dial. Sandberg has been hailed as the most powerful woman in social media today, among a long list of other awe-inspiring accolades.
Facebook has always had competition, but they have been able to knock some out along the way. For example, Facebook bought the uber popular photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. In 2013, they bid $3 billion in an unsuccessful attempt to acquire disappearing photo-messaging app Snapchat. In February 2014, their most recent acquisition was WhatsApp, a messaging app for smart phones that has over 450 million users, for a staggering $16 billion. This was largely seen as another one in the win column for Facebook since Messenger, their messaging app for mobile devices, is second only to WhatsApp in smartphone market share3. Twitter is another of Facebook’s nemeses, as they are often competing for ad budgets of the same users and are predicted to compete over the next wave of video ads in the
Zuckerberg’s arch-rival would have to be Google, as they are watching his every move and banking on Google+ to be their winning SEO-driven social network that goes head-to-head with Facebook. Even if you accept the premise that Google is omnipotent, Google+ still has a long way to go to catch up. As much as I believe that G+ (its abbreviated name) will continue to evolve, I cannot bring myself to spend much time on it. I find it to be so entrenched with strategic keyword rich text and search engine ranking trickery, that it is lacking in entertainment value, visual appeal, or user-friendly engagement with others. In short, for me at least, it strangles the social component right out of it.