Facebook turns 20: How the social media giant grew to 3 billion users | Social media news

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In 2004, as broadband replaced dial-up internet and mobile phones with color screens became popular, on February 4, a social network called “TheFacebook” , launched by 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates. University.

Facebook was named after the physical student directory distributed at universities at the beginning of the academic year, commonly known as “facebook”.

Within a few years, the platform exploded in popularity, becoming the largest social media network in the world, with more than three billion monthly active users today.

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Major milestones

The idea behind Facebook was the result of one of Zuckerberg’s previous projects called Facemash, a “hot or not” website that was used to rate the faces of female Harvard students side by side.

To obtain the photos used on the site, Zuckerberg hacked into the university’s security system and copied student ID photos without permission. This forced the university to shut down the platform within days of its launch and led to disciplinary action against Zuckerberg.

However, just a few months later, Zuckerberg and his roommates launched a new networking site that allowed Harvard students to connect with their peers using their “.edu” email address.

Screenshot of thefacebook.com captured by the Internet Archive on February 12, 2004
Screenshot of thefacebook.com captured by the Internet Archive on February 12, 2004

The social network was very successful and soon spread to other college campuses across the United States.

Within its first year, the platform grew to one million users, and in August 2005, it was renamed “facebook.com”.

By the end of 2006, anyone over the age of 13 with internet access could join. The number of users jumped from 12 million in 2006 to 50 million in 2007, which doubled to 100 million by the end of 2008.

Online IPO
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remotely rings the Nasdaq opening bell in Menlo Park, California, on May 18, 2012 [Reuters]

In 2012, the year Facebook reached a billion users, it went public, valued at $104bn. Facebook made an initial public offering (IPO) at $38 per share and raised $16bn. The platform’s market share has since grown nearly 12 times, to around $474 at Friday’s close.

On October 29, 2021, Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook, Inc. to Meta Platforms, Inc. The company owns and operates Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp, among other products and services.

With three billion monthly active users, Facebook remains the world’s most popular social media platform, accounting for over half of the world’s internet users and over a third of the world’s population.

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To put 3.03 billion users into perspective, that’s more than the populations of India (1.4 billion), China (1.4 billion), and Bangladesh (173 million) combined.

In 2023, Facebook’s largest audience included: India (385.6 million), followed by the US (188.6 million), Indonesia (136.3 million), Brazil (111.7 million) ) and Mexico (94.8 million).

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Who uses Facebook the most?

According to Datareportal, an online information library, among the global users of Facebook, individuals aged 65 and older (5.6 percent) outnumber those aged 13-17 (4.8 percent).

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with Insider Intelligence who has followed Facebook since its early days, notes that the site’s younger users have been declining.

“Young people are often shaping the future of communication. I mean, that’s basically how Facebook started – young people were enjoying it. And we see that happening with almost every social platform that has evolved from Facebook,” Williamson told The Associated Press news agency.

Facebook’s largest audience group, with just under a third (29.9 percent) of all users, is 25-34 years old.

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Issues with data privacy and user safety

Facebook has encountered a number of data privacy and user safety issues over its 20-year existence.

One of the most high-profile cases of 2018 came when it was revealed that British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the personal information of 87 million Facebook users without permission in early 2014 to build profiles of individual voters in the US to target them with personalized political ads.

Zuckerberg attended his first congressional hearings at Capitol Hill, Washington, DC where he was questioned about his data privacy practices. Meta’s boss agreed to pay a fine and said he would improve privacy rules on the platform.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - CTC
Global citizen movement Avaaz installs life-size cut-out figures of Zuckerberg with ‘fix fakebook’ T-shirts in protest in front of Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 10, 2018 [Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo]

On January 31, 2024, Zuckerburg, along with the CEOs of TikTok, X and other social media platforms, were asked to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a rare show of unity, Republican and Democratic senators blasted the CEOs over how social media companies have not done enough to prevent the damage their platforms are doing to health and well-being children and teenagers.

Zuckerberg apologized to the parents of the victims. “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. No one should have to go through what your families have suffered,” he said, adding that Meta continues to invest and work on “industry-wide efforts” to help children to protect

Child health advocates say social media companies have repeatedly failed to protect minors.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg looks on as X Corp CEO Linda Yaccarino and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew raise their hands to be sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sex abuse at the US Capitol in Washington, DC [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

What’s next for Meta?

Despite the government investigation, and a shrinking younger audience, Meta on Thursday reported revenue of $40.1bn and profit of $14bn for the fourth quarter of last year – far higher than analysts’ forecasts.

Meta, like many other tech giants, has been investing heavily in increasing its computing power to support its ambitious artificial intelligence (AI) plans.

According to Reuters, Meta is preparing to release its own AI chips, called “Artemis” internally, later this year for use in next-generation AI products hungry for a they plan to integrate into Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

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