Fifteen years ago this week, Harvard student created TheFacebook.com, a social network for college students that looked a lot like Friendster or Myspace. The company moved from his dorm room to Silicon Valley a few months later, and began expanding to other universities. In the beginning, Zuckerberg didn’t take his role too seriously. His first notoriously read: “I’m CEO … bitch.”
A decade and a half later, Facebook apps are used byof the world’s people each month. The company has acquired or crushed most of its main competitors, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and . It’s now equivalent to approximately seven Twitters in terms of . Facebook is where of Americans get their news, the place where collect donations, a venue for , and where people announce their engagements, babies, or . It is perhaps the largest repository of personal information about humankind to ever exist. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, still makes time to so he looks and smoke .
Facebook isn’t just a social network and messaging platform powered by advertisements; it’s also a marketplace for, a manufacturer, a , and a . The company has lured some of the artificial intelligence researchers and developed one of the facial recognition algorithms. It has swallowed more than 70 companies, most which made technical software, to the investment site Crunchbase. Facebook is also generating significant wealth for its 35,000-odd employees: The median salary in 2017 was more than , though that figure excludes the company’s legions of contract workers.
As Facebook turns 15, it’s confronting some of its biggest challenges yet, including a looming Federal Trade Commissionand potential federal from Congress. To celebrate the milestone, we’re taking a comprehensive look at what Facebook has become. Here’s everything the social network has touched. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
Facebook the Platform
TheFacebook.com didn’t become Facebook.com until Zuckerbergthe domain for $200,000 in 2005. The company wouldn’t acquire its shorter URL, fb.com, until 2011, when it bought it from, of all places, the . The deal cost the social network $8.5 million. The year before that acquisition, Facebook the patents for Friendster, one of its early competitors, for an estimated $40 million.
Originally, Facebook merely displayed individual profiles. But in September 2006, the company introduced the News Feed, promptingover privacy concerns. (Zuckerberg told users to “ ” the day after the feature was announced. Twenty-four hours later, he admitted that he had “ ,” but the News Feed remained.) The same year, Facebook the Notes feature, and like the rest of the internet, .
In early 2007, the companyFacebook Mobile, allowing users to access the site on their phones; it’s now the people use the social network. In 2008, the company an iOS app for the still-novel iPhone, which included location-sharing features for friend discovery and, eventually, targeted ads. In 2011, the company Facebook for SIM, which let mobile users without a data plan access Facebook by paying for a subscription (the SIM cards are no longer available).
Also in 2007, FacebookMarketplace, a Craigslist-esque classified ads portal, which evolved several times before becoming the in-app feature available today. Around this time, the company released Facebook Platform, a set of tools and products for developers to make and adapt applications for the Facebook ecosystem. (By 2009, Zynga had become the on Facebook, with millions of people playing its hit game .) In May 2008, Facebook Facebook Connect, which it described as “the next iteration of Facebook Platform.” The feature allowed users to sign in to other apps and sites using their Facebook credentials. Facebook boasted it would allow developers to add “social context” to their sites by showing users which friends had already made accounts.
Facebook is where nearly half of Americans get their news, the place where millions of nonprofits collect donations, and a venue for state-sponsored propaganda.
In 2009, Facebook introduced perhaps its most iconic feature: the Like button. Facebook expanded on the Like in 2016, when itReactions, including “wow,” “haha,” “sad,” “angry,” and “love.” (Since users have also had the ability to “Poke” each other.)
In 2014, Facebook introduced Facebook Safety Check, a feature activated during disasters and mass attacks for people to let their family and friends know they’re safe. In 2016, the company released aEvents app and introduced Facebook at Work (later Workplace), a business communication platform similar to Slack.
Media and Gaming
Facebook Photos debuted in 2005. There were no limits to how many images users could upload, and it quickly became one of the site’s most popular features. Facebook Video arrived two years later, with the catchphrase “.” In 2011, Facebook with Skype to develop a Video Calling feature.
Facebook Livein 2015, initially only for verified users. Facebook later to develop live content, including a famous BuzzFeed video of an . Facebook Live came under scrutiny after it was used . Around the same time, Facebook capability for 360 Degree Videos. And by 2016, users were able to 360 Degree Photos.
Facebook’s pivot to video continued in 2017 with theof Facebook Watch, a video-on-demand service showcasing original content developed by partners, ranging from Refinery29 and Univision to Fox News. Facebook Watch Party, a viewing experience for groups, debuted in early 2018. Later that year, Facebook that several news programs, developed in partnership with outlets like CNN and BuzzFeed, would be available on Facebook Watch.
Also in 2018, FacebookLip Sync Live, a Facebook Live karaoke feature , a similar app beloved by teens. The company also introduced a number of , such as Polling and Gamification.
When it wasn’t combating privacy, Facebook spent much of last year attempting to lure gamers to its platform. The company obtained the for multiple esports leagues from the federation ESL. It then its Gaming Creator Level Up Program, which aims to attract popular livestreamers to Facebook Live—and away from —by helping them expand their followings, make money, and engage with fans.
Facebook alsoits own Twitch-style dedicated live-streaming site, Fb.gg, and began some gaming influencers money for using the platform. Some of Facebook’s gaming partners can also participate in a Patreon-style monthly subscription program for fans, now by the company. Facebook also launched its own virtual currency, Facebook Stars, worth one cent each, for users to send to their favorite gamers as tips. (The company takes a cut of every Star purchased by users.)
While it’s too soon to determine the fate of its various livestreaming ventures, Facebook hasthat in the past it encouraged children to spend large sums of money playing games without their parents’ permission.
In 2015, Facebook launched Instant Articles, athat allows users to read news articles from select websites without leaving the social network. After the 2016 US presidential election, when it was criticized for spreading misinformation, Facebook partnering with outside fact-checking organizations to combat misinformation. Around the same time, it the Facebook Journalism Project to foster partnerships with the media industry.
Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and More
Facebook’swas Inbox, a Facebookified email client where messages were linked in threads (real-time messaging was impossible). As the site matured, private messaging became increasingly important. In 2008, the company Facebook Chat, an instant messaging service similar to AIM and Gchat. In February 2011, Facebook acquired group messaging service Beluga, which it used to develop its standalone chat app Messenger, released . In 2015, the company a person-to-person payment service to Messenger. Facebook Messenger Lite, a designed for emerging markets, was released in 2016. A year later, Facebook launched Messenger Kids, which as young as six.
In 2012, Facebook paid $1 billion tophoto-sharing app Instagram, and has since rolled out additional features, including Instagram Direct messaging, disappearing Instagram Stories, and IGTV, a . Two years after buying Instagram, Facebook $19 billion to purchase private messaging service WhatsApp, where it also Stories. The Snapchat-esque feature made its way to Facebook proper in 2018. It was that Facebook plans to merge the that powers WhatsApp, Instagram, Direct, and Facebook Messenger.
Over the years, Facebook has acquired or built several apps and tools that bear a striking resemblance to its competitors. There’s the TikTokLasso, for instance, as well as the cringe-worthy-named LOL. In 2018, the company rolled out Collection, a sharing tab similar to Pinterest. And it began testing Dating, a within its main app that works to other dating services like Tinder and Bumble. (It’s not yet available in most regions.)
When Zuckerbergthe launch of Facebook Ads and brand Pages in 2007, he that “the next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today.” He wasn’t wrong. Facebook makes most of its revenue—$55 billion last year—by charging marketers to target people based on the it compiles about them. Facebook IQ, the company’s , provides “powerful, actionable insights on consumer behavior, marketing and measurement.” The Intercept that Facebook wants to use AI to predict how consumers will behave in the future.
Also in 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Social Ads and Facebook Beacon. The latter sent information about users’ activity on other websites to Facebook for the purpose of ad targeting. Facebook Beacon quickly became the subject of aand was retired in 2009.
Facebook uses myriad other tools to track user activity on and off the web, including Facebook Pixel, a tracker. In 2015, Facebook also out free Facebook Bluetooth Beacons to businesses. The physical devices could monitor when a specific Facebook user visited their restaurant or store. Though the page for businesses to request beacons has since disappeared, Facebook to offer advertisers a way to calculate store visits using “customers’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signatures” and “satellite imagery and mapping data.”
In 2012, Facebookadvertisements as Featured Posts in the News Feed. Shortly after, the company the now-defunct Facebook Exchange, a marketplace for advertisers to bid on real-time ad placements. In 2018, the social network rolled out its own called the Brand Collabs Manager.
Around the same time, Facebook launched a political ad tool, which allows users tofrom political advertisers. The change came after Facebook discovered Russian propagandists had purchased more than targeting Americans as part of a disinformation campaign around the 2016 US election.
Ads created through Facebook’s Ad Manager app or platform can be shown to users on Facebook or Instagram as stories, in-line posts, or other ways. The company also has free marketing and businessavailable online as part of its Facebook Blueprint e-learning system. Wannabe marketers can even achieve Facebook Blueprint Certification if they want to truly “establish [their] Facebook marketing expertise.”
In 2013, ZuckerbergFacebook wanted to help connect the 5 billion people who then lacked access to the internet, mostly in the developing world. He estimated the project would take five to 10 years. Facebook soon created Internet.org, a set of initiatives that included the Connectivity Lab, where researchers work to reach the not-yet-connected via drones, satellites, and . Through the lab, Facebook built Aquila, an enormous solar-powered drone designed to beam an internet connection back to Earth. It was in 2018, two years after its first public . The Connectivity Lab also experimented with satellites, including one designed to provide internet access to sub-Saharan Africa, which on a SpaceX rocket in 2016. Last year, WIRED that Facebook was planning to launch a new satellite called Athena in 2019.
The Connectivity Lab also worked to createto where networks needed to be improved. And it developed OpenCellular, a device that can be to a tree or street lamp and function like a miniature cellular station, as well as Terragraph and ARIES, for improving internet access in both rural and urban areas. In 2015, the company created Express Wi-Fi, a where local businesses host routers that people nearby can use as internet hotspots.
Internet.org’s most controversial access project is Free Basics, a program launched in 2013 that offers people in more than 60 countries free access to a limited suite of websites and apps, including, of course, Facebook. In 2016, Free Basics wasin India as part of a ruling in support of net neutrality. Also that year, Facebook launched the Telecom Infra Project, a with more than two dozen companies aimed at improving the underlying architecture that powers the internet. The initiative echoed the Open Compute Project, an open source initiative that Facebook in 2011 to remodel the hardware used inside computer data centers. To top it off, Facebook also owns undersea internet cables.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
In 2014, Facebook paid $3 billion to buy Oculus, athat now makes three , Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and Gear VR. (Coming soon is Oculus Quest, an that doesn’t need to be connected to a computer.) Together with Samsung, Oculus Samsung Gear VR in 2015. Oculus Studios publishes and funds VR games and experiences, while Oculus Story Studio focused on VR storytelling content before it shuttered in 2017.
Also in 2017, Facebooktwo VR cameras designed to capture spherical video and the blueprints for them to the world via the coding site Github. In addition, Facebook introduced the Camera Effects platform, a for developers to create augmented-reality apps. Around the same time, Facebook announced Facebook Spaces, a bizarre, of the social network.
Facebook has investedin its Applied Machine Learning Group, whose engineers help to automate many parts of its sprawling platform. The company’s AI Research group has attracted top scholars in the field and regularly publishes world-renowned .
AI nowdetect toxic comments on Instagram, determines which posts appear in your Facebook News Feed, and makes sponsored posts more “relevant.” The tech is also used to identify potentially offending posts for the social network’s thousands of content moderators. For example, the company uses an called Rosetta to analyze text in photos and videos, which can alert a moderator if it thinks a meme violates Facebook’s hate speech policies. Facebook also uses AI for more controversial purposes, like to determine whether .
In December 2010, Facebookfacial recognition technology to suggest who to tag in a photo. In 2014, the company said its DeepFace algorithm had become as accurate as humans at identifying faces. In 2017, it to alert users when an image of them is uploaded—even if they’re not tagged in it. Around the same time, Facebook said it was using photo-matching technology to halt .
Facebook has also used AI to build automated chatbots. In 2017, the company caused a panic when some news organizationsthat its bots had begun talking to one another in their own language. In fact, Facebook’s researchers had set out to build bots that could negotiate with people, but instead the bots started talking gibberish.
In 2018, Facebook’s AI researchers announced they had partnered with New York University to develop more efficient diagnostic technology that could significantly. Facebook has also even that builds other AI.
In 2013, Facebook released the so-called Facebook Phone, also known as the. The Android device came preloaded with Facebook Home, a software addition for the home and lock screens that to post on Facebook more often. Despite much fanfare, the phone didn’t take off; at one point, AT&T the device for just 99 cents.
In October, Facebook tried again to break into hardware with Facebook Portal, a, which arrived as the company faced a number of privacy scandals. Facebook’s team of hardware designers reportedly also is working on a pair of AR glasses, that could come sometime in the .
Other Facebook Projects
In 2013, FacebookOnavo, an , which it to gather data on popular emerging apps in order to copy or buy them. It also used tech from Onavo to build Facebook Research, an app where users are paid around $20 a month to share their data with the social network. Onavo and Facebook Research were from iPhones for Apple’s privacy rules (they’re both still available on Android). Onavo also launched Bolt, an app that could lock other applications using a pin code or fingerprint. Facebook later deleted it after the app privacy concerns.
Also in 2013, Facebookinto the nonprofit sector with Donate, a feature for contributing to nonprofits. It later added a for charities; more than 1 million organizations now accept donations through the social network. Facebook its nonprofit work each year at the annual Facebook Social Good Forum. That’s where the company has introduced designed to help facilitate blood donations. In 2018, the company Blood Donations on Facebook, to make it easier to find places to donate in certain countries.
In 2017, Facebook’s experimental unit Building 8 announced plans toa device to read your thoughts. The same group is also an armband to allow people to hear through their skin. Building 8 researchers were planning to negotiate data-sharing agreements with hospitals, until the Cambridge Analytica came to light. The project was subsequently .
In addition, Facebooka Bug Bounty Program, a in Paris called Station F, and a dubbed Learn with Facebook. The company also facilitates for small businesses through its Community Boost program, and bought the popular publisher CrowdTangle in 2016. There’s also Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg’s who can help the CEO whenever his heart desires.
Facebook is alsodeveloping a cryptocurrency for WhatsApp purchases. Facebook has made other advances in the crypto world. Last May, former head of Messenger David Marcus to head a new project focused on leveraging blockchain technology for Facebook. Tuesday, the company Chainspace, a blockchain startup.
Many Facebook initiatives died, not unusual for a company trying to innovate in so many areas. Some of these projects were thinly veiled knockoffs of competitors, while others were quietly phased out amid privacy or other concerns.
In 2009, Facebookwith a user governance structure, where people could vote on the site adopted. But only a of the platform’s then-200 million users participated, and the program was soon abandoned.
In 2014, FacebookTrending Topics to display a selection of viral news stories. It was originally edited by human curators, who were accused of bias; the curators were replaced by an algorithm, which led to the of hoaxes and fake news stories. Facebook tried the feature, but eventually last year.
Over the years, Facebook has launched several Snapchat competitors, none of which have achieved mainstream success. TherePoke in 2012, Slingshot , and Lifestage, which was in 2017. In 2014, the company launched Facebook Paper, a news-reading app that was basically Facebook’s version of ; it was in 2016. Facebook its standalone Groups app soon after.
When the anonymous gossip appbecame a viral sensation among teens in 2017, Facebook bought its own gossip app, tbh, which it almost . At the same time, it shuttered the contact app Hello and the fitness app Moves, which it had acquired in 2014.
Other abandoned Facebook endeavors include: ain Messenger called M; Rooms; the Notify app to send notifications; an app called I’m Voting created in partnership with CNN; a Google Photos competitor called Moments; the Facebook Lite app; the Facebook Credits virtual currency; a Vine competitor called Riff; and, of course, the known as Facebook’s War Room, built to help during the 2018 US midterm elections and Brazilian presidential election.
Do you know a part of Facebook we didn’t list? Let the authors know at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.