The Evolution of Facebook From 2004 to Meta

Facebook, the world’s largest social media site, celebrated its 18th birthday in 2022. Over the past few years, both the platform and the company (now rebranded to Meta) have grown rapidly and been part of several controversies.

Here, we’ll take a look at the evolution of the American tech giant, from its humble beginnings in 2004 to its forays into today’s metaverse.

2004–2006: The Origin Story of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and his friends came up with the idea for a new website that would connect all Harvard students. His inspiration? Harvard’s online student directory “Face Books.” The technical insight came from her previous project Facemash—a “hot or not” website that compared female Harvard students side-by-side.

On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “The Facebook” with his friends (he eventually dropped “the” in 2005). Initially, only Harvard students were allowed to create profiles on the site. But later, the site was expanded to allow students from other colleges, bringing its user count to one million by September 2004.

Seeing this, the Winklevoss twins sued Zuckerberg, claiming that he had stolen their idea for the social networking site. The twins had previously hired him to build their website, ConnectU (formerly HarvardConnection), which would be based on the same concept. However, instead of helping them, Zuckerberg reportedly used the idea to create Facebook.

As of December 2005, Facebook had six million users. It also had several new features including the infamous Facebook Wall and News Feed. In April 2006, Facebook was no longer mobile, and in September, they made the platform available to anyone 13 or older on the Internet.

2007–2009: Introduction of the Facebook Like button

With its global reach, Facebook grew from 20 million users in April 2007 to 50 million users in October. Besides people, Facebook also attracted companies and by the end of the same year it had nearly 100,000 business pages.

In February 2008, the Facebook–Winklevoss lawsuit was settled with Zuckerberg paying the twins $65 million in cash and Facebook stock. Later, in July, the platform released its mobile app on iOS.

Soon after, Facebook added more features to its website and app, including chat, Pages, Facebook ads, and video support. But the most important of them was the Like button, which was introduced in February 2009.

2010–2012: Facebook goes public

After the introduction of the Like button, Facebook made several changes to the platform. It improved the tagging of people in photos, liking comments, and the home page. Later it launched new features like Facebook Places, Groups, Timeline and Video Calling.

As of July 2010, Facebook had over 500 million active users. And in November, it became the third largest web company, valued at $41 billion. Later, in August 2011, Facebook launched Messenger—a dedicated instant messaging app.

In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion and took the company public shortly thereafter. In May 2012, Facebook held its initial public offering (IPO) at $38 per share and raised $16 billion on the first day. On top of this, the company ended the year crossing another milestone of one billion active users on the platform.

2013–2015: Facebook enters new territories

Soon after the IPO, investors lashed out at Facebook, alleging that the company misled them about its true status by disclosing only to a select few customers. This resulted in over 40 lawsuits and a $35 million settlement.

In 2013, Facebook became a Fortune 500 company; This milestone illustrated just how popular the company has really become. In the same year, the company launched new features such as video and direct on Instagram.

On its 10th birthday in 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Oculus and Atlas. In 2015, Facebook had over 40 million small business Pages. This later became the core of a new venture: Facebook Marketplace.

2016–2018: Controversies, scandals and everything else

Along with fame and money, Facebook also got hate and trouble. Although the company has always been in the middle of lawsuits and allegations, things became more intense in 2016 when it faced heavy criticism for spreading fake news.

To counter this, the platform introduced a new feature that allows users to flag fake posts and pledged to improve the algorithm, but these efforts barely made a difference. In the same year, Facebook also introduced Reactions, which allow users to select from multiple emoji along with the Like button.

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