Facebook at 10: From college joke to a billion friends

Facebook at 10: From college joke to a billion friends

Summary: Today, Facebook towers over the social-networking world with over a billion users. It didn't start that way. But, it's final legacy may not have much at all to do with social networking.


Love it or hate it you can't get away from Facebook. If you're not one of over a billion Facebook users, chances are your aunt Marge, your high-school buddy Bobby, and many of your friends and relatives are already there.

Want to join Facebook? With over a billion users you're sure to find friends and family there.

Sure, some people predict that Facebook will burst like a bubble, as MySpace did before it. Others decry the way Facebook plays games with your privacy. And, devoted users grumble about Facebook's constant interface tweaking. None of that really matters. Today, Facebook dominates our online lives like no other Website except Google's search engine. And, with so many of your friends and family there, it's likely to be the site you spend the most time on every day of your life. 

It wasn't always that way.

Facebook actually started as Facemash in October 2003 by Mark Zuckerberg. This site simply scraped images from the Harvard University dorms' online people directories called "facebooks," and asked visitors to vote on which person in every randomly selected pair of photos was hottest. Little more than a lame college Web trick, it was to prove to be the start of a multi-billion dollar business.

Take a look through Facebook's past (Gallery)

Zuckerberg was inspired this small joke of a site to build a social network, thefacebook.com, which he launched on February 4, 2004. Well, that was his story.

Days after he launched the site he was accused by the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra of stealing their idea for a social network. Years and millions of dollars of legal fees later the twins accepted $65-million for their part in Facebook's creation.

This first site was only open to Harvard students, but its membership took off explosively. Within its first month, more than half of Harvard's undergraduates had joined up. Zuckerberg quickly expanded it to the other major colleges, He quickly realized that he had a real business and on September 26, 2006 he opened Facebook to everyone who 13 and older with an e-mail address.


Boom! By November 2007, Facebook recorded $153-million in revenue, and Facebook hadn't even introduced the Like button yet. The now universally known Like button would only come in February 2009. Funny isn't it? I find it hard to imagine Facebook without a like button now.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing for Facebook in recent years. The company's 2012 IPO was, to be polite, bungled. While shareholders were incensed, Facebook user community kept growing and growing.

I could delve into the minutiae of how this happens and Facebook's endless UI twists and turns, but really the most important thing Facebook has done in the last few years is all but invisible to its users: the Open Compute Project.

This is a project that is revolutionizing data center design by open-sourcing everything in the data center from the server motherboard up to the server chassis to the rack all the way up to the overall air flow specifications and design of the data center building itself. Almost everyone who's anyone in the data center space, and even companies that simply supply software for it, such as Microsoft, are embracing Open Compute.

End-users will never see this, but even if Facebook really does fall into decline, the changes that Open Compute has brought to the data center will change computing for decades to come. You see, by making data centers far cheaper and more efficient, Open Compute will change how we use not just data center applications, but the cloud and indeed the entire Internet for perhaps a lifetime to come.

And, to think it all started with a sophomoric stunt in college. That's pretty amazing Facebook. I look forward to seeing what you'll come up with in your next decade.

Related Stories:

Topics: Networking, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • facebook is for dumb people

    using facebook is like reading this article for 15 minutes and looking at your face/ just boring / facebook has extreme limitations to what you can post and share besides the same damn pictures of everybody every other day
    • OK, I don't like Facebook either

      but a billion people do. Calling Facebook users "Dumb People" is incredibly arrogant. Considering that the Chinese seem desperately afraid of Facebook, and the Arab countries in the middle east always cut Facebook access when they get concerned about rebellion should say something.

      Makes me wonder who the dumb people are.
  • Facebook is still a joke

    The original purpose of this network is to spy behavior and relationships.

    Connecting people does'n t need to be related to personal exposition or massive sales of ads.

    Facebook doesn't produce a real valued service or generates any product worthy to be bought.

    This network is a social-tech aberration that corrodes time and the development of our kids.

    Nobody is a better person because of Facebook!
    • Not exactly...

      The original purpose is to make money. It is, after all, a BUSINESS. Since the service is free, they make money through ads. When you sign up, you agree to the way they use their data.

      As for "the development of our kids", that really depends on the kid and his parents. My younger brother has grown up with Facebook, but was never really interested in it. I know kids who use it sparingly. And I know kids who are addicted. It really comes down to the person.
  • I quit Facebook a couple of years ago.

    I have never regretted leaving those spying turds! My entire family has dropped out, or never joined. I have no friends that are on Facebook. If you wish me to join Facebook so I can read your daily drivel, you won't be my friend. And I will not join Facebook. Fool me once, shame on me.......
  • Let's be honest here

    his prank didn't isnpire him to create facebook, it inspired the Winklevoss to seek him out to join their team to create the social networ. Which then inspired him to create facebook. Let's not rewrite history and let's be honest he did steal their idea.