20 years of Facebook: From Harvard’s social network to Zuckerberg’s metaverse dreams |

Facebook is now 20 years old, and Mark Zuckerberg, then a 19-year-old Harvard undergrad, says he’s still at it, and the best is yet to come. But, it went through a lot, coming out from Harvard’s dorm room to metaverse. Here’s how the last two decades have been for Zuckerberg and Facebook.

From “Facemash” to “The Facebook”


Image Credits: The Social Network

While Facebook was started in 2004, its foundation was laid a year ago, in 2003, when Zuckerberg created Facemash, a website that let students rate students’ photos to decide who was “hot” and who was “not.” However, it reportedly did not end well for Zuckerberg, but he was back at it again, creating “thefacebook.com,” named after the directories that were handed out to university students to improve their social connections.At first, it was only open to Harvard University students, but later, students at other colleges were allowed to join.

Winklevoss Twins

Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra

Days later, Harvard seniors – Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra claimed that Zuckerberg had stolen their social networking idea, HarvardConnection. They even filed a case against Zuckerberg, and later the group settled the case out of court. The Winklevoss brothers have a story of their own.

Drop the “The.” Just “Facebook.” It’s cleaner.


Image Credits: The Social Network

In 2004, Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, became the president of Facebook. However, he was forced to step down a year later, in 2005, after he was arrested for possession of cocaine. And if you have watched David Fincher’s The Social Network, this is when “TheFacebook” became the “Facebook.” The company bought the domain name facebook.com in 2005 for $200,000.
Fun fact: Yahoo offered to buy “TheFacebook” for a billion dollars in 2004.
In its first year, the social media platform attracted one million users. By the end of 2006, it was made available to anyone over the age of 13 with internet access, resulting in a significant increase in users from 12 million in 2006 to 50 million in 2007. This number then doubled to 100 million by the end of 2008.

A billion users, but still in an existential crisis

7 years later, in 2012, Facebook reached one billion users and became a publicly traded company with a valuation of $104 billion. Facebook made its initial public offering (IPO) at $38 per share and raised $16 billion. The platform’s market share has since grown nearly 12 times and closed at approximately $474 on Friday.
Then, in the years followed, came a series of acquisitions, possibly making Facebook what it is today.
Starting with Instagram, Zuckerberg saw it as a threat to his social network. He wanted to neutralise it at any cost, so he ended up buying it out for a billion dollars in 2012. Then, two years later, in 2014, Zuckerberg’s Facebook bought WhatsApp, which was also growing to become a threat to Facebook, so they bought it for a whopping 19 billion dollars. And then, in the same year, it acquired Oculus, a virtual-reality company, for 2 billion dollars, and little did we know that this was going to be Facebook’s biggest bet of all three.

Zuckerberg and his regular visits to the Senate

Zuckerberg’s Facebook has been involved in controversies and political scrutiny all over the world over data privacy and user safety issues. One of the biggest controversies that Facebook was involved in was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which used Facebook users without permission to create voter profiles. Zuckerberg testified before Congress and agreed to enhance privacy regulations, and even faced a 5 billion dollar fine.

Mark Zuckerberg in Congress hearing

And while the 20-year-old social media platform suffers from privacy woes, its acquisition of Instagram is being boiled down over child safety issues. Just last week, Zuckerberg and other social media CEOs appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, where they were questioned about social media’s impact on children.
Zuckerberg has testified before Congress eight times, and it seems like this won’t be it.

A not-so-social future for once a social media company


Remember the $2 billion Oculus buyout? Well, it laid the foundation for Zuckerberg’s ‘Meta‘ vision. In 2021, as Facebook turned 18, Zuckerberg and the company decided to rename the company to “Meta.” Well, it is short for metaverse, which can be defined as a virtual world where people can socialise, work, and play, and Zuckerberg believes that it is the future of the internet and his social media company.
Zuckerberg’s meta journey has not been easy. Meta has invested billions in virtual and augmented reality, and it continues to burn billions of dollars as it figures out how to put a headset on everybody’s face. While he figures that out, Meta, which once tried to build human connections over the internet, is also spending billions on building artificial intelligence. He believes that AI will only help his metaverse vision.
“Along the way, lots of amazing people joined and we built some more awesome things. We’re still at it, and the best is yet to come,” wrote Zuckerberg, reminiscing his last 20 years of Facebook.
Facebook was not the first “social media website,” it is the only one that stayed relevant for twenty long years. It still has three billion users and owns two of the other biggest social network platforms. And, it might or might not break in the metaverse.
So, happy birthday, Meta. Oops, Facebook. Hope your coming years will be less of congress hearings and more of parties in the metaverse.

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