Facebook turns 20: history, controversies and curiosities

Today Facebook turns 20Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, in fact, was born on February 4, 2004. Since the day of his birth, many events have taken place, including happy moments and scandals. Some, in both cases, …

“Users tracked by thousands of companies.”  Privacy alert on Facebook

Today Facebook turns 20Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, in fact, was born on February 4, 2004. Since the day of his birth, many events have taken place, including happy moments and scandals. Some, in both cases, have been forgotten, others, however, have made an impact and are still often cited.

Whatever anyone says, however, Facebook represents one of the most important innovations of the last 20 years, since it has completely redesigned the habits of citizens of the world, getting them increasingly accustomed to being constantly in contact with each other.

Facebook’s history is based on entrepreneurial success, but not without dark sides. The latter, in fact, were told very well in the film based on the history of the platform: “The social network” (2010). Below we look back at some of the most important stagesfrom its foundation to the present day, without forgetting some curiosities.

The founders of Facebook

To tell the story of Facebook it is necessary to start with that of its creators. The platform was born in 2004, from the minds of five brilliant students from Harvard University (Boston, Massachusetts): Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Of these, today, only Zuckerberg is still part of the company, while the others have taken other paths.

What are they doing today? Well, Zuckerberg he still holds the position of CEO of Meta, the parent company of Facebook; Saverin he works as an investor, thanks to a multi-billion dollar fortune; McCollumin addition to being an investor, works as CEO of Philo, an American company; Moscowitzafter leaving Facebook, founded the software company Asana in 2008. He, of course, is also a multibillionaire. Chris Hughesfinally, after leaving Facebook and becoming a millionaire, he volunteered alongside Barack Obama during the 2008 US elections and ran the magazine from 2012 to 2016. The New Republicas publisher and director.

How Facebook was born: the story

The idea of ​​Facebook was born from a very simple principle: at the time of university, the founders realized that the social life of college students, always extremely immersed in their studies, was of poor quality.

To help them get in touch with each other faster, then, part of the group created TheFacebook (later to become Facebook Inc.), a free platform on which it was possible to share one’s thoughts, chat, have fun, etc.

Already during the launch period, things immediately became complex for Zuckerberg and the other founders, as some university colleagues – such as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra – accused the founder of theft of intellectual property, even ending up taking him to court and obtain substantial compensation.

With the launch, however, not only did some problems arrive for Facebook, but also many satisfactions. After a boom in enrollments at Hardvard University alone, the service was also opened to other students from other universities, including those from Columbia University of New York, LA Yale University (Connecticut) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), enjoying great success.

The end of the academic year and the success of the platform convinced Zuckerberg and his colleagues to put aside university and concentrate on Facebook. To do so, they left Boston to move to Silicon Valley, California, looking for an environment to grow the company, find funding and new potential partners. Here they found the support of some great entrepreneurs, including the founder of Paypal, Peter ThielAnd Adam d’Angelo (Quora).

From that moment, also thanks to investments, the company has grown steadily (but not without problems). In Italy, Facebook began to be talked about consistently in 2008. Then in 2011, the number of Italian members even reached 21 millionpractically a third of the country.

Furthermore, in 2012, the platform achieved a notable milestone: 1 billion active monthly users on the platform. Finally, in 2023, despite many declaring Facebook a “finished” platform, the magazine specializing in technology TechCrunch reported a piece of data – emanating from the platform itself – which suggests quite the opposite: Facebook, whose parent company in the meantime had changed its name to become Meta Inc., had reached 3 billion active users in a month, practically 40% of the world population.

Of course, saying that the platform hasn’t changed in these twenty years is stupid: not only is Facebook very different in its interface, functions, etc.; but the ecosystem around it is also completely new. Here have arrived Instagram – initially considered as a banal social network for photographs taken during holidays – TikTok – mistakenly considered the platform of Generation Z – and many others. But this has not affected Facebook which, for better and often for worse, has managed to survive.

Facebook turns 20: controversies and curiosities

Writing about Facebook without also mentioning the controversies that have affected him over the years, it is not possible. The problems for his managers, as already explained, began right from the birth when some colleagues denounced the then university student Zuckerberg on the accusation of having stolen the idea that led to the birth of Facebook.

But although this episode is very famous, especially because it was well told in the film “The Social Network”, it is not the most controversial one. This scepter in fact belongs to the scandal known as “Cambridge Analytica”, named after a British consultancy firm. The case exploded in 2018 and is remembered as one of the biggest political scandals of recent years. The basis of it was the fact that Cambridge Analytica had collected the personal data of 87 million Facebook accounts without their consent and had used them for political propaganda purposes.

Due to possible interference in the US political election voting process, Facebook’s stock price fell by several percentage points. The case only ended in 2022when Zuckerberg’s company agreed to pay damages to all users whose data had been exploited without consent.

And more recently? As you can read in an article published a few days ago, the years pass, but the troubles do not. Zuckerberg, together with other CEOs of important tech companies – X, Snap, TikTok and Discord – he had to show up in front of the American Congress to justify the use that companies make of user data. The accusation, made against the managers by North Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, is that of “have blood on your hands” Why “your platforms kill“he said, referring to the fact that many people have lost their lives due to the platforms’ poor enforcement activities.

As for curiosities, there are many worthy of being told, some however are truly unmissable. Although, for example, the actual Facebook was born with the name TheFacebook, already in 2003 Zuckerberg had created a site starting from the same assumption. The site was called FaceSmashbut more than resembling modern Facebook, it was reminiscent of Tinder.

According to data from December 2023, Facebook is still the third most visited site in the world behind Google and YouTube. After Facebook there is another platform part of the Meta group: Instagram.

Until recently, around 2017, finally, on the entire platform there was only one user who could not be blocked. Guess who it was? Exactly, exactly Zuckerberg. To find out, in 2010, it was TechCrunch magazine, which first launched the report. The bug was later fixed.