Since its launch in February of 2004, and until May of 2012, Facebook was privately owned and operated as a single entity as Facebook, Inc. Boasting over 900 million users, the company went public with a much anticipated offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

At its very beginnings, Mark Zuckerberg, along with a few of his Harvard pals, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, created the social sharing site in order for students to exchange messages, images, and other personal information in a format that was easy for users to update their profiles and send out automatic messages to everyone in their friends list.

The Early Years

In addition, the first iterations of Facebook allowed only Harvard students to join but quickly evolved into a much larger audience that let users outside of the university join. Soon after, other college and university students became users and when they began to encourage friends and family to join. It soon evolved into something much larger and is now what we have today- a huge world-wide platform in which users from every corner of the planet with an Internet connection can create a profile, invite friends and join common interest groups, people they work with or create groups of close friends or family.

Facebook, very quickly in the grand scheme of things, defined and created what we know today as social networking. From its creation in 2004 to the present day, it is a synonym for social interaction. In 2010, it was estimated by Social Media today, that almost 50 percent of the United States population had a Facebook account, which prompted the company’s initial public offering in February 2012.

Facebook has come a very long way from the initial name of Facemash, in October of 2003, where the site was in competition with the site “Hot or Not.” At the time, Zuckerberg, hacked into that site and compiled online facebooks of nine houses, which placed the hacked photos side by side and asked users to choose the “hotter” person from ID images from these private dormitories. As depicted in the 2010 movie, “The Social Network,” Facemash attracted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo views in the first four hours it was online. From there it spread to several campus list-servers but as soon as the Harvard administration became aware of the breach of security it was shut down and Zuckerberg was charged with violating individual privacy and copyrights.

Zuckerberg expanded on this initial project that semester by creating a social study tool ahead of an art history final, by uploading 500 Augustan images to a website, with one image per page along with a comment section. He then opened the site up to his classmates, and people started sharing their notes. And as the movie, “The Social Network” dramatized, a few days after the initial launch of “thefacebook.com” Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Windlevoss, and Divya Narendra publically accused Zuckerberg in the Harvard Crimson of intentionally leading them on about building their social network which was to be called the HarvardConnection.com, all while stealing their ideas. The later, very public lawsuit was filed and in a very public battle was settled out of court.

Facebook was incorporated in 2004 and initially employed Eduardo Saverin as a business manager, with programmer Dustin Moskovitz, graphic designer and artist Andrew McCollum, and President Sean Parker and soon moved its headquarters to Palo Alto, California. In the later part of June 2004, Facebook received its first investment from the co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel. It then purchased the domain name, facebook.com for an estimated $200K, dropping the “the” from the name.

The Evolution

From that point on Facebook added portals for marketers to develop brand promotions as part of their overall action plans. Some of the most well-known initial social marketing was done for “True Blood,” “American Idol,” and “Top Gear.” Top rated networks and media outlets have since become partners with Facebook to promote their shows and publications- some of the more well-known and recent are the Huffington Post, Financial Times, and ABC News.

Not only has Facebook changed the way we communicate it has also opened up a wide range of outlets for philanthropy, as non-profits and environmental NGOs have found that this is a way in which to educate users and rally them around issues and causes worthy of their attention and support.

Beyond the over-arching activism and business implications, Facebook for the individual user has allowed them to stay in contact with friends, relatives and even allow family and friends of soldiers stationed in war zones and foreign posts to be closer, albeit in the virtual world.

The rest, as we know is all history and in the coming months, and possibly years, Facebook’s influence as a social networking giant will be the story of legends and fascination.

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