Image source: niallkennedy
Take a look at the image above. In its early days, when Mark Zuckerberg and a few friends started it out of their dorm rooms twenty years ago, this was the appearance of Facebook.
There have been dozens of redesigns of the most popular social network in the world since then.
Meanwhile, its original intent was and is to facilitate online communication. And amass vast fortunes through advertising.
On this, the platform’s twentieth anniversary, we look back at four ways Facebook altered global dynamics.
1. Facebook revolutionized the social media industry.
Even while MySpace and similar networks had been around before Facebook, the 2004 launch of Mark Zuckerberg’s site proved how quickly a platform like Facebook might gain traction. Thanks to features like the ability to “tag” individuals in images, it gained one million users in just a year and surpassed MySpace in four years.
As the 2000s came to a close, it became par for the course for teenagers to bring along digital cameras on night outs and tag their mates in dozens of photos. One of the main attractions for early adopters was the activity stream, which was updated often. Besides a little dip in daily active users near the end of 2021, Facebook has maintained its rapid growth since 2012, when the network had more than one billion monthly users.
The corporation has maintained and even grown the number of Facebook users by expanding into countries with less internet connectivity and providing free internet. Facebook announced that there will be 2.11 billion daily users by the end of 2023. Among young individuals, Facebook’s popularity has declined. However, it has set a new standard for online social interaction and continues to dominate the market.
For some, Facebook and similar platforms are liberating means of communication. Some people think of them as destructive addicts.
2. Our data has become more valuable and less personal thanks to Facebook.
Facebook demonstrated that gathering our preferences is highly profitable. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is now a behemoth in the advertising industry, bringing in more than its fair amount of revenue from companies like Google.
Meta announced on Thursday that it made over $40 billion (£32 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2023, mostly from providing clients with highly targeted advertising services. A profit of about $14 billion was reported.
But Facebook has also demonstrated the downsides of improper data acquisition. Meta has been hit with fines for data breaches on several occasions.
In 2014, Facebook paid $725 million to resolve legal action following a major data breach, the most well-known instance being the Cambridge Analytica incident. Facebook was fined €265 million (£228 million) by the European Union in 2022 for enabling data extraction from the site.
Furthermore, the Irish Data Protection Commission levied a record €1.2 billion punishment against the corporation last year for exporting user data from Europe to a country that does not have adequate data protection laws. Facebook is presently pursuing an appeal about the penalty.
3. Facebook started a political movement online.
Due to its targeted advertising features, Facebook has emerged as a prominent global platform for political campaigns. For instance, Statista reports that the Trump campaign spent over $40 million on Facebook ads in the five months preceding the 2020 US presidential election.
By bringing together previously isolated user groups for worldwide campaigning and action planning, Facebook has also contributed to a shift in grassroots politics. Many believe that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter played an essential role in the Arab Spring by disseminating information and facilitating the coordination of demonstrations.
However, Facebook’s use for political purposes has drawn criticism for several reasons, including its damage to human rights. According to a United Nations assessment from 2018, Facebook did not succeed in preventing users from “inciting offline violence” against the Rohingya people of Myanmar.
4. Facebook propelled the rise to power of Meta.
Thanks to Facebook’s meteoric prominence, Mark Zuckerberg established a technological and social media behemoth with unmatched reach and influence.
In 2021, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta after acquiring and rapidly expanding a number of promising startups, such as Oculus, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Meta now claims that over three billion individuals use one product daily. Meta has been accused of mimicking its rivals multiple times when it could not acquire them to preserve its dominance.
Instagram Reels is Instagram’s response to the threat from TikTok, a video-sharing app; Threads is Meta’s attempt to mimic X, formerly known as Twitter; and the disappearing Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram is comparable to a crucial feature on Snapchat.
Rising levels of competitiveness and stringent regulations have elevated the significance of tactics to an all-time high. Meta lost money in 2022 when UK regulators forbade it from owning Giphy, a service that made GIFs, out of concern for Meta’s potential market dominance.