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The History of Facebook


It’s hard to imagine a society without Facebook, isn’t it? Now, when you meet someone, you don’t ask for their contact information -- you ask if they’re on Facebook. Actually, you probably just look them up on Facebook later and friend them without asking.

Facebook is our world. And this highly-engaging social network is now used by 1 out of every 5 people on earth. That’s a lot of people. But how did this online networking service get so big? And why is it so important for your business? Let’s start at the beginning.

In The Beginning 

Facebook, in part, was started back in 2004 by Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg and a couple of his college pals. However, before the 2004 launch, there was a predecessor. And it was called face - wait for it - mash. Its primary function was to rate the “hotness” of fellow Harvard students. It allowed users to compare photos of their friends side-by-side and then decide who was “hot” and who was “not.” Really, it was like an early version of Tinder.

Facemash lasted for one year and was then dissolved to make room for “Thefacebook," which was much closer to the program we all know and love and appreciate for it’s lack of hotness comparison. Here’s what the login screen used to look like:


(You see that face up in the top left hand corner? That’s Al Pacino.)

Facebook grew quickly, adding new features each year and gaining millions of members along the way. To give you an overview, we’ve highlighted a few of the major additions and updates worth knowing about…

The Timeline 

2004: The official launch of “Thefacebook.”  The program was solely available to a few Ivy League schools. Over time, they released the program to other universities. The platform incorporated a “wall” for users to post on their personal profiles, view friends, view friends of friends, etc.  

2005: They changed the name to “Facebook" and added the ability to upload photos into profiles (big deal that pushed Facebook to the top of the line in terms of social networking). 

2006: Facebook went mobile (huge effing deal because of the rise of smartphone use) and branched out to corporations rather than just colleges. Later in the year, they gave access to the public, ages 13 and up. All you needed was a valid email address. They also launched the News Feed and mini News Feed, which gathered users' posts into one place.


The original News Feed

2007: Facebook established a partnership with Microsoft, which propelled the company forward to launch a program called Beacon. The program was shut down due to legal issues, which raised a lot of privacy concerns for Facebook in the long run. They also developed Facebook Marketplace for classified listings, video posting, Facebook Ads and Pages, and Platform for companies to develop their own applications. 

2008: Facebook lanzó en español (Facebook launched in Spanish). They also created Facebook Chat, Facebook Connect (which allowed users to connect their profiles to third party sites, like Instagram), Facebook for iPhone, and a brand spankin’ new site design.


2009: This year, they introduced the “like” button, Facebook usernames, and a new homepage which improved the ability to share, like, and connect with friends.


2010: Facebook launched the ability to post locations (one of our favorite features) and a new Profile design that gave users more control of their profile. Ending the year with a bang, Sony Pictures released “The Social Network.” It won some Academy Awards. NBD. 

2011: Adding to the rise of video and mobile use, Facebook launched video calling with Skype and a Facebook app for the iPad. They also added a Timeline feature to show highlights of people’s lives over the years. Meanwhile, they settled major privacy legal issues.

2012: This was a big year for Facebook. To kick it off, they announced going public, which is a big ass deal for any small private company. In an attempt to build their mobile presence as well as photo sharing experience, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. They also launched Facebook Camera, Facebook Gifts, and a messaging app called Poke (what is a poke anyway?). 


(Source: Business Insider)

2013: As if they didn’t do enough in 2012, this year they created Facebook Search and the Donate button. For Instagram, they developed video and direct messages

2014: This year, in order to boost their presence in the mobile world, they acquired the 5-year-old messaging app, WhatsApp. Besides Facebook’s interest in dominating the photo sharing & messaging world, they also set sights on the gaming world by acquiring virtual reality company, Oculus. Amid buying up everything in sight, Facebook launched these programs and updates:

2015: Last year, the most important addition was Live video for all public profiles. This was huge because it put Facebook in the running with other large video sharing companies like Vine, Periscope and Snapchat. Additionally, they launched these programs:

2016: So far this year, Facebook has launched several (are you dizzy yet?) new updates and additions. The newest feature is Facebook Reactions, which takes “likes” to the next level. Rather than just “liking” a post with the thumbs up, you can now react to a post with an emoticon (emojis). If you don’t want to “like” something sad, you can now react with a sad face. It’s pretty brilliant and a massive hit.


Facebook, Social Networks, and Your Business

Phew, now you understand why Facebook has seen massive growth in 12 years, and why every business/organizations from restaurants, to gyms, to churches to nonprofits, are scrambling to build their Facebook presence. But not only has Facebook dominated the social media world, it has also connected  all the social networks by developing the ability for third parties to connect on their site.

Facebook is where your people exist. It’s where they look for information 13.8 times a day. It’s where they’re engaged with their friends. And it’s why we are taking the time to create a book all about Facebook (literally everything you can imagine). It will walk you through every aspect of Facebook from how to create an account to how to custom target audiences, to how and when to post live video. Get ready, this is only part one of chapter one. Hope you’re hungry. 

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John Rougeux

John is co-founder and CMO at Causely. When he's not trying to build the most philanthropic company in the world, he's probably hanging out with his wife and three daughters in Lexington, KY. You can also find John on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Matthew Watson

Matt is Customer Success Manager at Causely, where he does everything in his power to help our customers succeed. He loves sports, his wife, his dog, and the great outdoors, but not in that order. He may love his dog more than sports. You can find Matt on Facebook and Twitter.


Sarah Werner

Sarah is a writer, marketer, and brand specialist. She has experience in both non-profit marketing and financial development as well as for-profit content marketing and social media. She holds degrees in English and Art from Asbury University. When she’s not writing content for Causely, you’ll find her outside with a book or camera enjoying the company of trees. You can also find Sarah on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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