How Facebook Got Its Start: Inside the Early Days of the Social Media Giant

It’s now one of the world’s largest companies and is a part of everyday life for millions worldwide.

Phadera World Wide


Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, Inc., was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates at Harvard University in February 2004. The story of how Facebook got its start is a fascinating journey from a dorm room project to a global social media giant.

Today, Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook) is one of the world’s largest technology companies, with a user base that spans billions of people globally. Its journey from a dorm room project at Harvard to a global social media and technology conglomerate is a testament to the power of innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital age.

Zuckerberg kicks things off with…

Mark Zuckerberg’s journey began early in life when his father, Edward, introduced him to Atari BASIC computer programming, recognizing the importance of coding. At just 11 years old, Zuckerberg’s talents became evident, and he received tutoring from software developer David Newman, who still refers to him as a ‘prodigy.’

Within a few years, Zuckerberg developed a practical program called ZuckNet. His father, who ran a dental practice from their home, needed a way for the receptionist to reach him without shouting through the house. ZuckNet, an internal instant messaging system, solved this problem.

Even while attending Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite boarding school, Zuckerberg’s passion for creation persisted. He caught the attention of AOL and Microsoft, who were interested in purchasing Synapse, a software he had developed with a friend to learn a user’s music taste through AI and listening habits.

However, he declined their offers and set his sights on Harvard, where the seeds of Facebook were sown. This decision is likely one he doesn’t regret today.

Introducing ‘Thefacebook’: A Journey from Harvard to Worldwide Phenomenon

In February 2004, ‘Thefacebook’ was born. It allowed users to create profiles, share photos and interests, and connect with others. Initially, only Harvard students could join, and it quickly gained popularity.

However, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, faced a lawsuit from former collaborators who claimed he stole their ideas. In 2008, they settled for 1.2 million shares each, worth $300 million by the IPO.

‘Thefacebook’ expanded to universities across the US and Canada in 2004. It relocated to California in 2005, attracting investments from PayPal’s co-founder, Peter Thiel, and others.

In August, it became ‘Facebook,’ opening its doors to high school students, Microsoft, and Apple employees. In November, Zuckerberg left Harvard to focus on Facebook as its CEO.

Facebook’s journey from its early days to more recent developments

2004, February 4: The Birth of “The Facebook”

On this date, Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates launched “TheFacebook.” It was a modest start, catering exclusively to Harvard University students, but little did they know how it would reshape the digital landscape.

2004, April 13: LLC Formation

As “TheFacebook” gained momentum, the founders officially formed a limited liability company (LLC), taking their first steps toward establishing it as a legitimate business.

2004, June: Inaugural Investment

The nascent social network attracted its first official investment, laying the foundation for future growth and development.

2004, September: The First Legal Challenge

ConnectU, a rival social network, filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging intellectual property theft. This legal dispute marked the beginning of Facebook’s legal battles on its path to dominance.

2005, August: The Domain Acquisition

A significant milestone was reached as Facebook acquired the coveted domain name, “facebook.com,” solidifying its identity as a global platform. The “The” was dropped, marking the start of its evolution.

2005, December: Introduction of Tagging

The concept of tagging photos and friends was introduced, revolutionizing how users connected and shared their experiences.

2006: The Game-Changing News Feed

In this pivotal year, Facebook launched the News Feed, transforming the platform into a dynamic hub for real-time updates and interactions.

2007, January: Mobilizing Facebook

Recognizing the mobile future, Facebook made its debut on mobile devices, setting the stage for a global mobile revolution.

2007, May: Open to Developers

Facebook opened its doors to developers, unveiling the Facebook Platform, encouraging innovation, and expanding its reach.

2007, November: The Beacon Controversy

Facebook Beacon, a targeted ad system, stirred privacy concerns. A class-action lawsuit ensued, prompting reevaluation of privacy practices.

2008, June: Settling the ConnectU Dispute

After years of legal wrangling, Facebook settled its dispute with ConnectU, resolving one of its most significant legal challenges.

2008, October: Dublin Hub

Facebook established its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, reinforcing its global presence.

2009, February: The Birth of the “Like” Button

The iconic “Like” button was introduced, changing how users expressed their appreciation and approval.

2009, November: Farewell to Beacon

Facebook Beacon was shut down, learning valuable lessons about user privacy in the process.

2011, June: Video Chat with Skype

A partnership with Skype brought video chat to Facebook, enhancing communication on the platform.

2011, November: The Arrival of Facebook Timeline

Facebook Timeline was unveiled, providing users with a new way to tell their life stories.

2012, January: Featured Posts and Beyond

Featured Posts started appearing in News Feeds, offering a more curated experience for users.

2012, April: Instagram Joins the Family

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram signaled a strategic move into visual storytelling and photo-sharing.

2012, May: Going Public

Facebook made its historic IPO, going public and attracting global attention.

2012, October: 1 Billion Users Milestone

A momentous achievement as Facebook reached 1 billion active users, solidifying its position as a social media giant.

2013, May: Stickers and Expressions

Facebook introduced stickers, enriching conversations with colorful expressions.

2013, August: Pioneering Internet.org

The launch of Internet.org aimed to bring internet access to underserved regions, fostering connectivity worldwide.

2014, February: WhatsApp Acquisition

Facebook acquired WhatsApp, further diversifying its messaging portfolio.

2014, February: Personal “Look Back” Videos

“Look Back” videos celebrated user milestones and memories, adding a personal touch to the platform.

2014, October: Anonymity with Custom Tor Links

Facebook enabled users to access the platform through custom Tor links, emphasizing privacy and anonymity.

2015, March: Peer-to-Peer Payments

Messenger introduced peer-to-peer payments, simplifying financial transactions for users.

2015, May: Embracing GIFs

Facebook announced support for GIFs, enriching user conversations with animated expressions.

2016, February: Expanding Reactions

Facebook Reactions were introduced, providing users with a broader spectrum of emotional responses.

2016, June: Secret Soccer Game

Messenger launched a secret soccer game, adding a playful element to conversations.

2017, April: Entering Virtual Reality with Facebook Spaces

Facebook Spaces was announced, taking the first steps into the realm of virtual reality.

2017, October: Expanding with tbh

Facebook acquired tbh, a social media app that facilitated anonymous feedback among friends.

2018, March: The Cambridge Analytica Scandal

A watershed moment as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal unfolded, leading to significant privacy reforms and public scrutiny.

2020, May: GIPHY Joins the Fold

Facebook acquired GIPHY, further enhancing the visual language of its platforms.

2020, June: Dark Mode for Mobile

Facebook introduced Dark Mode for mobile, providing a sleek and customizable user experience.

2021, May: Data Breach

A data breach exposed millions of users’ information, highlighting ongoing challenges in safeguarding user data.

2021, October: Becoming Meta Platforms Inc.

A transformative moment as Facebook Inc. rebranded itself as Meta Platforms Inc., embracing a new vision of the metaverse.

2021, November: Farewell to Face Recognition

Facebook discontinued its face recognition feature, reflecting evolving privacy concerns.

2022, February: Changing User Dynamics

Daily active users dropped for the first time, indicating shifts in user behavior and preferences.

2022, March: Easing Speech Rules

Facebook made headlines by easing its rules to allow for certain forms of speech against ‘Russian invaders,’ sparking debates on platform governance.

The world’s greatest

In December 2009, Facebook hit a big milestone with 350 million users, becoming the world’s top social platform. The next year brought more updates, like the ‘like’ button, and by July, it had 500 million users. In November 2010, it was valued at a whopping $41 billion, becoming the third-largest web company in the US.

In June 2011, Facebook reached 1 trillion page views and was the second most-visited site in the US. August saw the launch of Facebook Messenger. It had come a long way from its early days in just a few short years.

Read this also : To Enhance your Facebook Experience and Protect Yourself, Here are Some Unique but Effective Tips

Facebook at Home: Bringing People Closer

Back in October 2018, Facebook unveiled something exciting: Portal and Portal+. These were video communication devices designed for home use, allowing folks to make video calls. They even had Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in, making them hands-free and capable of following callers around the room.

But with great innovation came great privacy concerns. Recent hacks had people worried about having a device with cameras in their homes. In an interview, Rafa Camargo, the head of Portal at the time, emphasized that privacy was a top priority. Facebook claimed not to record or listen to calls, but they didn’t implement end-to-end encryption, leaving the door open for potential access by authorities. Plus, Facebook admitted that data collected through Portal could be used for targeted ads, which didn’t sit well with people given the year’s setbacks and scandals.

Portal devices hit the market in November 2018, but Facebook still faced a few more challenges before the year’s end. A controversial story emerged about a PR firm, Definers Public Affairs, hired by Facebook to improve its image. The firm was accused of running a campaign to blame philanthropist George Soros for anti-Facebook sentiments, a move seen as echoing conspiracy theories. It’s unclear how much Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg knew about these activities.

To cap off a challenging year for Facebook’s reputation, a late December investigation revealed that the company had allowed clients like Netflix and Spotify to access and delete users’ private messages, in violation of its own rules. Some bigger clients appeared unaware of this extra access, making it a rocky end to the year for Facebook.

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