Facebook is one of the giants of the Internet today. But its founders never dreamed of the success, when they were slowly building it from scratch in their university dorm room.
Here, we briefly explore how Facebook started, and uncover the origins of its name as well as detail some of Facebook's major milestones.
What was the original purpose of Facebook?
The original purpose of Facebook, or "The Facebook" as it was known then, was to allow Harvard students to use their ".edu" email addresses and photos to connect with other students at the school.
Zuckerberg foresaw a way of bringing the existing social experience of college onto the Internet. He wanted to create a place that could help college students connect with one another.
Why did Mark Zuckerberg make Facebook?
"Harvard organizations such as fraternities and sororities already had a precursor to Facebook for each individual organization. His idea was to take this information and put it into a central location so that all of the students of a college could communicate with one another." - Techwalla.
To this end, in January of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg began writing the code for this new site that would eventually become Facebook. The inspiration for it came from an editorial in The Havard Crimson on Facebook's controversial forerunner "Facesmash."
The site's name was taken, by all accounts, from the sheets of paper distributed to the freshman that profiled students and staff at Harvard.
Facebook was subsequently founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes — all of whom were students at Harvard University. Soon after the new site was launched under the URL thefacebook.com.
It was an immediate hit and within just 24 hours of launch, around 1,200 students had signed up. Within one month, around half of all Harvard undergraduates had a profile.
It soon spread to three other college campuses around the U.S. — Yale, Columbia, and Stanford.
"It became Facebook.com in August 2005 after the address was purchased for $200,000. US high schools could sign up from September 2005, then it began to spread worldwide, reaching UK universities the following month," according to the Guardian.
How did Mark Zuckerberg come up with the idea?
As we have already seen, the idea for Facebook came from existing practices at Harvard for freshman students. He was, in his own words, trying to solve a problem he saw around him and not build a multi-million dollar enterprise.
"Ten years ago, you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools."
"That was a basic need, where I looked around at the Internet and there were services for a lot of things that you wanted," Zuckerberg added.
"You could find music; you could find news; you could find information, but you couldn’t find and connect with the people that you cared about, which as people is actually the most important thing. So that seemed like a pretty big hole that needed to get filled."
As we all know today, Facebook exploded beyond all expectations for Zuckerberg and other Founders.
Who was the first Facebook user?
You won't be surprised to hear that the first Facebook profile belonged to none other than Mark Zuckerberg himself. Long before user profile URLs were changed to their current forms, user's profile URLs looked something like "http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=" and a set number.
Zuckerberg's was id=4.
1-3 were most likely test accounts and have since long been deleted.
The first "real" Facebook user, with an id of 4, was Chris Hughes, Zuckerberg's friend, and co-founder of Facebook. The next few dozen accounts appear to have been Zuckerberg's friends, classmates, and roommates.
Interestingly, Business Insider conducted an investigation a few years back and discovered that the first 20 Facebook accounts and their relationships with one another.
According to their findings, after Zuckerberg and Hughes, the next few accounts were as follows:
- Dustin Moskovitz - He helped found Facebook and was roommates with Mark.
- Arie Hasit - Arie was the first non-founder account and was friends with Chris Hughes.
- Marcel Georgés Laverdet II - Marcel was friends with early Facebookers and Facebook founders.
- Soleio Cuervo - He was friends with other early Facebook members like George Laverdet above.
- Chris Putnam - Chris was also friends with other early Facebookers.
- Andrew McCollum - Andrew was one of Mark Zuckerberg's classmates.
- Colin Kelly - Colin knew many other early facebookers.
- Mark Kaganovich - Mark also knew many other early facebookers.
What were some of the major milestones in Facebook's history?
Here is a brief history of some of the major milestones in Facebook's history. Credit to thestreet.com, for its compilation:
- February 2004 - Facebook (then called "thefacebook") was founded by Zuckerberg, Moskovitz, Saverin, and Hughes.
- March 2004 - Facebook spreads to three other college campuses - Yale, Columbia, and Stanford.
- June 2004 - Facebook moves its headquarters to Palo Alto, California.
- September 2004 - The site launches the now-infamous "wall" - which allows users to post things and receive messages on their own page.
- December 2004 - Facebook hits 1 million users.
- May 2005 - Facebook expands to over 800 college campuses.
- September 2005 - The site expands to high school networks. It also drops the "the" to become just "Facebook."
- October 2005 - Facebook adds photos and goes international.
- December 2005 - Facebook has over 6 million users.
- April 2006 - Facebook goes mobile.
- September 2006 - Anyone can now join Facebook.
- December 2006 - Membership increases to 12 million.
- June 2007 - Video launches.
- December 2007 - Membership increases to 58 million.
- July 2008 - Launch of Facebook for iPhone.
- February 2009 - The "like" button is introduced.
- July 2010 - Over 500 million users are active on Facebook.
- August 2010 - Engineering center is opened in Seattle.
- October 2010 - Groups are launched.
- April, 2011 - Data center opens in Prineville, Oregon.
- July 2011 - Video calling is launched.
- April 2012 - Acquisition of Instagram is announced.
- May 2012 - Facebook releases its IPO - which raised $16 billion and gave the company a $102.4 billion market value.
- October 2012 - Membership hits the 1 billion mark.
- February 2013 - Acquisition of Atlas is announced.
- June 2013 - Facebook's acquisition of Instagram launches video.
- February 2014 - Acquisition of WhatsApp is announced.
- March 2014 - Acquisition of Oculus is announced.
- November 2014 - Groups App is announced.
- April 2015 - Over 40 million small business pages are on Facebook.
- June 2015 - Facebook's AI Research opens in Paris.
- February 2016 - Facebook's Reactions launches.
- July 2016 - Over 1 billion users of Messenger a month.
- October 2016 - Marketplace launches - allowing users to buy and sell products.
- April 2017 - F8 developer's conference is held in San Jose by Facebook.
- March 2018 - Facebook was sued by shareholders following stock plummet.
- April 2018 - Zuckerberg testifies before Congress regarding concerns over data and privacy breaches.