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Timeline: Eight Years of Facebook Features, Feats, and Flops

  • Category: Features


In typical Facebook fashion, it's only fair that the service's 850+ million users all log on, hit up Facebook's official profile, and bombard its wall with messages for the service's eighth birthday today.

Then again, if we were to go by the official Facebook rules, Facebook wouldn't even be allowed on its own service for another five years – the world's biggest social network only just turned eight today.

But what an eight years it's been! From a few IM conversations at Harvard to a to-be-public company valued at nearly $100 billion, Facebook will soon be sitting on a great deal of cash and the growing need to hammer out a clear strategy for connecting the world's users and profiting from their data – or, at least, from the advertisers interested in connecting with specific demographics of Facebook's users.

It hasn't been a perfect path to public for the social network, however. Join us as we track some of the key moments on Facebook's timeline (ha ha) – some of its greatest features, strategic hits, and failures over the past eight years.

2004

February 2004: Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook at Harvard University. That's after he previously launches "Facemash," a site that asks Harvard students to rate their peers' headshots in a hot-or-not-like fashion (it's shut down by Harvard administrators after a few days' existence). Within a month or so, half of Harvard's undergraduate population signs up for Facebook.

September 2004: Here comes the Facebook wall! Facebook users now gain the ability to post witty messages to each other. But they won't be able to download an archive of this data (from mid-2006 onward) until October of 2010.

 

2005

August 2005: "Thefacebook.com" officially becomes simply "Facebook.com," after the Facebook domain is purchased for a whopping $200,000. We would have held out… for about six years.

September 2005: High school students are given the ability to join Facebook. College students, saddened that their social network is no longer exclusive to just them, freak out – but keep Facebooking.

October 2005: Flash a smile and say hello to the debut of Facebook Photos! And so begins the tragic downfall for Facebook users who take sick days after posting a night's worth of party pictures.

December 2005: Facebook reaches one million users.

 

2006

January 2006: Wirehog dies. The Facebook-endorsed (and designed) service allowed both Facebook and non-Facebook users to tap into each other's connected systems and exchange files – only legal videos and music, right?

May 2006: Facebook opens itself up again, now allowing users within certain "work networks" to join. Non-Facebooked friends start begging their connected peers for fake corporate email addresses.

July 2006: Mark Zuckerberg turns down a $1 billion-turned-$800 million offer from Yahoo to acquire Facebook. Yahoo CEO Terry Semel tries to renegotiate and ups Yahoo's offer back to $1 billon months later, but it's too late.

September 2006: Facebook launches News Feed to user complaints – individual users can now see a "history" of everything their friends are up to on the service instead of having to stalk their friends via their individual profiles. Facebook also opens itself to any and all users this month, so long as those registering for the service are 13 or older.

2007

February 2007: Facebook launches Facebook gifts, a way to send friends a virtual momento for the low-low cost of $1. Who needs an IPO when you have digital cake?

May 2007: Facebook officially launches Facebook Platform, setting the stage for third-party developers like Zynga to come in and build apps and games within Facebook's network. Eventually, Zynga itself will account for 12 percent of Facebook's overall revenue.

June 2007: Facebook video launches, giving users a way to share their favorite memories of the rock concert, their birthday parties, or their cats' hijinks with their Facebook friends.

November 2007: Facebook launches the ill-fated Beacon, where actions Facebook users perform on external partner websites get highlighted their friends' News Feeds. Users respond with a class-action lawsuit, leading Facebook to dim the lights on Beacon in late 2009.

Facebook also launches "Pages," a way for brands and entities to create "fan zones" on Facebook for users to like and later receive information from.

 

2008

March 2008: Yoink! Facebook friends Google's Sheryl Sandberg, who joins the company as its Chief Operating Officer. Facebook also standardizes its privacy controls and launches a few new privacy options for users, which allows them to further refine just who sees what via "friends lists."

April 2008: Facebook Chat launches. Users spent hours typing, ":Putnam:" into their chat windows to conjure up an emoticon of the Facebook engineer.

July 2008: Facebook Connect is announced, giving users a way to log into third-party websites with the push of an, "I'm on Facebook" button. Sites gain access to parts of a user's data stream, and users find themselves with a simpler way to declare and share who they are on their favorite external websites, as well as connect with their Facebook friends in non-Facebook Web locations.

Facebook also launches its first official mobile app, "Facebook for iPhone."

September 2008: Facebook officially switches all users over to the "new profile," or Facebook 3.0 – you know, that thing you non-Timeline people are basically staring at right now? Sort-of. The "new profile" previously featured tabs for your wall, information, photos, and other apps, and didn't come with a quick summary of you underneath your name like today's non-Timeline profile. Regardless, a chunk of Facebook users, per usual, remain unhappy with the mandatory switch.

 

2009

February 2009: Facebook introduces the laziest way one could ever show appreciation for a subject or action: The Facebook "Like."

June 2009: Millions of Facebook users stay up until the bitter hours of the morning in the hopes that they'll score a "really neat" username upon the launch of this new Facebook feature. Lazier users are sad when they wake up to find that any and all fun combinations of their name and/or interests are snatched up in the digital land grab.

Facebook also beats out MySpace for total unique monthly visitors within the U.S. this month, leading millions to ask: "People still use MySpace?"

 

2010

April 2010: Facebook launches the Open Graph API, allowing sites to pull in additional information from users who have previously given them access to their Facebook data. Yelp, for example, can now serve up information related to the music or foods users have previously indicated they enjoy on their Facebook profiles. Sites can also publish customized news feeds on their pages that only show users' (and their friends') interactions with the site, for example.

June 2010: Facebook users ask where they can buy "The Hoodie" after Zuckerberg sweats off approximately 10 pounds in an interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

September 2010: The first rumors of a "Facebook phone" hit the airwaves, where they will likely persist until one of two things happens: Humanity reaches the end of time or Facebook releases a darn phone already.

October 2010: The first "official" movie about Facebook hits theaters – "The Social Network." Roger Ebert names it the best film of 2010 and "The Social Network" on to win a Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture – Drama."

November 2010: Everyone gets an @facebook.com email address, thanks to Facebook's debut of its "social inbox" feature. This one-stop shop for email, SMS, and IM combines all of a user's conversation history with an individual into one communication string.

 

2011

July 2011: Facebook teams up with Skype and adds video chatting to its litany of social services.

September 2011: Facebook announces the Timeline, its latest (and largest) iteration on users' profiles to date. Gone is the Facebook look and feature-set that traces back to the service's roots. In its place comes (and what Facebook intends as) a history of the user, categorized by actions and activities that can be searched across a user's entire digital existence. To quote Facebook product manager Samuel Lessin, "Imagine if there was an easy way to rediscover the things you shared, and collect all your best moments in a single place."

 

2012

February 2012: Facebook files for its much-anticipated initial public offering, giving the company a valuation of nearly $100 billion.