Friends for 10 Years: Facebook 2004-2014

American Icons, Featured Article
on February 3, 2014

With more than a billion monthly active users, Facebook is larger than all the countries in the world except India and China. Though the social network had humble beginnings in a Harvard dorm room, it grew into one of the most influential tech companies today. Wish Facebook a happy 10th anniversary by taking a look back at its first decade.


In October 2003, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a “hot or not” game by hacking into the Harvard University servers and using student pictures. Within hours, “Facemash” had garnered hundreds of views and soon caught the attention of the university. Zuckerberg shuttered the site, but had displayed his hacking skill and penchant for social interaction on the Internet.

On February 4, 2004, went online. The site was initially limited to Harvard’s campus, but expanded to Yale, Columbia and Stanford campuses. Within 24 hours, 1,200 people had created profiles.


“It’s Complicated”
Six days after the launch of, Harvard seniors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra claimed that Zuckerberg had stolen their idea for a similar social network, ConnectU. The accusations led to a lawsuit that was settled in 2008. This lawsuit and the company’s founding were the subject of David Fincher’s 2010 film “The Social Network.”


Finding Friends
Facebook attracted the attention of Napster creator Sean Parker, who began advising Zuckerberg in early 2004. By June, Parker became president of the fledgling company. Parker also convinced Zuckerberg, to change the name of the company to simply “Facebook.”


Pokes and Groups
Throughout 2005, Facebook rapidly expanded to about 2,500 colleges and 25,000 high schools in the United States, Australia, Canada and other countries. In mid-2006, the service expanded again when anyone age 13 and older with a valid email address was allowed to become a member. As Facebook grew, other Internet giants like Yahoo! and Google jockeyed for a buyout, offering sums around $1 billion.


Leaning In
Facebook hired Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in 2008. Sandberg helped monetize the service through advertisements that led it to mass profitability in 2009 and subsequent years. Sandberg is known for her 2013 book “Lean In,” which covers gender biases in the workplace.


Users could now view their entire digital lives on Timeline, a drastic redesign of the traditional profile page. With more integration of apps, a larger emphasis on photos, and the ability to see every interaction or comment a user had made on the site linearly, Timeline made profiles more personal and comprehensive. A reconfigured News Feed was also implemented around the same time.


Taking Stock
Facebook filed for an initial public offering on February 1, 2012. The IPO, expected to earn $5 billion, raised $16 billion and gave the company a valuation of $104 billion, the largest ever for a new company going public. Facebook stock (FB) began trading on the Nasdaq exchange on May 18, 2012.


Filtered Results
Instagram, a photo filtering and sharing app, was garnering a large audience among Facebook’s younger user base in late 2011 and early 2012. Facebook gobbled up the frosted frames for a price of $1 billion in April 2012, further expanding its grasp on shared digital photography.


“Mobile First”
2012’s banner year continued with the marked increase in mobile application development for Facebook. Facebook Messenger, released in 2011 and expanded in 2012, offers instant messaging between users or between people who input a name and phone number, thus providing competition to other similar messaging apps. Paper, released February 3, 2014, provides personalized news drawn from users’ accounts and other sources such as magazines and websites. Facebook hopes to continue developing standalone apps.