Thursday, 07 August 2014 00:00

Facebook Past Present and Future

Love It or Hate It, Facebook Seems Here to Stay

If you’re like myself - along with hundreds of millions of other people - you probably log onto a Facebook account at least once a day. You may also have a love/hate relationship with the social network - I know I do. But you may also find it hard to imagine life without it. Love it or hate it, Facebook has made an undeniable impact on the way we communicate with each other and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is now among the most influential people on the planet. He’s also one of the richest...

There have been a few important milestones associated with the colossal social networking platform recently. Two months ago, Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary. A few days ago, Mark Zuckerberg turned 30. And today marks two years since Facebook’s stock first went public.

A Few Facebook Facts & Figures

Facebook’s enormous success is reflected in the numbers:

- In 2012, Facebook passed the 1 billion user mark. It now boasts more than 1.3 billion users worldwide.

- The current market capitalization value of Facebook is $173.5 billion.

- Mark Zuckerberg is now worth more than $25 billion.

- Facebook shares were initially valued at $38. After dropping to a low of $18 shortly after going public in 2012, shares have rebounded and are currently valued at $58.

A Look Back

The first ten years of Facebook’s existence have been a dizzying upward climb. The story of Zuckerberg’s rise to the top of the social networking have been very well-documented - in articles, books and even Hollywood films. So I won’t go into a detailed account of how the young entrepreneur and his Harvard buddies got started (though it’s certainly an interesting story) but I will cover a few highlights of Facebook’s history  to date.

Originally conceived as a network for Harvard students only, Facebook soon spread to other campuses in the US and Canada after its launch in 2004. From the start, Zuckerberg and his approach to business stirred controversy among colleagues and peers. He was accused of stealing many of the ideas he used in developing Facebook and in the long run was successfully sued by three other classmates he initially collaborated with on another project.

In 2006, Facebook was made available to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address. Fuelled by some major investments in the company, Facebook’s popularity began to soar worldwide. By 2009, Facebook was considered the most popular social networking platform in the world and by 2010 it had become the 3rd largest online company in America.

As mentioned above, Facebook went public in 2012 with its first IPO. After shares dropped to half their original value, the stock rebounded eventually and is now performing well. Since it went public, Facebook acquired the messaging network app, WhatsApp - spending a record $19 billion on the purchase. Facebook also bought out Instagram, the hugely popular photo messaging application.

Facebook’s Effect on Society

It’s difficult to overstate the impact Facebook has had on our daily lives. Its success indicates that it was truly “an idea whose time had come”. It could be argued that if Facebook hadn’t done it, someone else would have, but not only did Zuckerberg and Co. anticipate the demand for this type of social network, they created it in such a way that it was very accessible and easy to use.

Its streamlined design makes it simple, even for non-tech types (such as grandparents), to stay in close touch with far-flung friends and relatives. Facebook has become a social phenomenon, reuniting long-lost acquaintances and generally bringing people together in an entirely new way. As with Google, it’s difficult for many of us to imagine how we ever functioned without it.

Is There Really a Downside?

There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Facebook, even from its earliest days. Zuckerberg himself is seen by many as a ruthless businessman, intent on market domination and willing to do almost anything to expand his empire. Business practices aside, Facebook has also been at the center of discussion and litigation regarding privacy, free speech and a number of other issues.

Many see Facebook as potentially dangerous for some of its users. Certainly there is an addictive aspect to the site - I personally spend more time there than I should. And there are questions about the safety of users, particularly children. When Facebook recently relaxed its privacy guidelines for young users, there was an outcry from parents and authorities. Some parents have opted for using spy phone apps to monitor the activity of their kids on Facebook and other social networks. The number of parents who use a cell phone tracker to keep an eye on their children online is growing rapidly.

There have been criticisms that many of Facebook’s policies are invasive of individual privacy, and recently there has been speculation about the NSA’s infiltration of the site. To many, Facebook appears to be the embodiment of Orwell’s Big Brother, and it would seem that some of that fear is justified.

However, for the average person, most of these concerns aren’t enough to discourage the use of Facebook. Most of us find the site far too useful - even if we pretend to hate it, we could hardly live without it. And although Facebook has begun to decrease in popularity for some users - particularly young people - it has still managed to keep growing while retaining many of its long-term users. Sure there’s some serious competition out there, but Facebook endures. And Zuckerberg is always looking ahead…

What’s Next for Facebook?

Eager to stay abreast of the trends in social networking, Facebook has expanded into other areas. Its purchase of Instagram for such a whopping sum indicates how serious Zuckerberg is about his vision of the company’s future and its role in the market. Facebook’s failed bid to acquire the photo messaging app SnapChat for more than $3 billion was an embarrassment, perhaps, but it appears Zuckerberg may have the last laugh. Facebook is now creating its own version, based on Instagram, which is expected to go toe-to-toe with SnapChat for market share.

Whatever you think of Zuckerberg, the man, it’s impossible not to have at least some grudging admiration for what he has accomplished. The company’s leadership in the IT world has been commendable and they have hired some of the very best talent available. Facebook’s contribution to the evolution of social networking in general has been considerable, to say the least. The company has been instrumental in the overall development of modern software programming as well as open source server and networking hardware. Working for Facebook is considered a dream job by many young developers.

Ten years may be a long time in today’s rapidly-evolving tech scene, but for an innovative and forward looking company such as Facebook has shown itself to be, it could prove to be just the beginning. If Zuckerberg’s instincts continue to be relevant to the market and to individuals’ needs, Facebook may remain a big part of our lives for many years to come. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Zuckerberg’s expanding empire.

Last modified on Friday, 13 February 2015 12:31