Special shoutout to the amazing Laura Coffman for being my muse on this post and giving me this idea. She is fantastic.
Facebook has changed more times than I can count. But it’s because of this constant change that it’s been able to dominate the social network landscape and become the behemoth that it is today.
So in this post, we’re going to start at the beginning and travel through time, discussing the milestones that Facebook has experienced and what those milestones have contributed to the current Facebook.
Thanks to the wonderful Timeline, I was able to go back and find my exact date of joining Facebook. May 1st, 2005. That’s about a year after Facebook was exclusive to only Ivy League schools.
Below is a list of some of the original Facebook-friendly schools and a look at what the original profile looked like:
Wow, we’ve come a long ways. Look how stagnant that page looks.
Now, I remember defending Facebook for being so uniform back in the day, compared to the extremely hectic MySpace. They allowed you too much freedom with your page and it was inundated with glitter, music clips, animated .gifs, and more. Facebook was consistent. And to this day, I’d agree that it still is. Yes, there’s more color and a little more freedom, but you can still navigate each person’s page without too much complication.
In the early days of Facebook, the key was that it was exclusive. You couldn’t have your university attached to your name unless you had a ___.edu email address or whatever. The general public couldn’t create accounts.
In September of 2005, Facebook opened up to high schools, creating an exponentially larger network of potential members. A year later in 2006, Facebook disregarded all need for a certain email type and opened up to all members who were over the age of 13. I believe this caveat is still in effect, though many younger kids will likely lie in order to create a profile. A Consumer Reports survey reports that there are approximately 7.5 million children under 13 and 5 million under 10 years old that have accounts, violating the terms of service. There are five million 9-year-olds (or younger) on Facebook? That seems crazier than I expected.
As you can see, Facebook is no longer about exclusivity but there is now a sense of assumption. You assume that everyone has a Facebook, regardless of age, education, etc.
As you can see, in September of 2006, both Notes and Statuses were becoming popular. At this point, statuses still included “is…” in front of your status.
Right after statuses were unveiled, I went a little crazy with the statuses.
Way too many. I think Twitter got its idea from this type of status use. And even though I wrote “watching House for the first time,” I still have never seen House. I’m not sure if I was lying or maybe something came up…
What’s the consequence of statuses now? In the current Facebook world? Statuses have pretty much destroyed the need for Away Messages that used to be common on chat services. That was the primary location for your favorite quotes, letting people know where you were/what you were doing, and being emo when you wanted attention. Statuses have now claimed that right.
And in terms of Notes… They may not be that popular now, as opposed to earlier versions of Facebook, but Notes have pretty much destroyed sites such as Xanga and LiveJournal. You have a built-in base of readers on Facebook. Even now with sites like WordPress, many bloggers choose to have their blogs sent to their Facebook pages, sometimes as links and other times as imported Notes.
The News Feed
This was the biggest controversy in the world at the time. Before the notorious news feed, you had to view someone’s page to see what they were up to. In retrospect, that must’ve been a pain. Now, everything is sent conveniently to your mainpage, known as the news feed.
In my compelling note titled “Facebook Rulz,” I offer my initial response to the news feed.
Great work there, Adam. Also, I don’t know why I blocked out my own profile pictures. Whatever. YOLO. And below, this is what one of the original versions of the feed looked like. Much less vibrant than the current rendition.
Pretty straight-forward. This is actually a little later than the original launch, since it included the notification flag and the online chat feature.
Chat / Messaging
Let’s talk about the chat feature, since we’re on it. In 2008, Facebook launched their version of a chat system, which has seen obliterated services like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger (of which I used all of the above). The sort service that Gmail provides seems to be doing okay still, for some odd reason.
When Chat debuted, people questioned why. But now in retrospect, this is the primary means of talking to people, as opposed to outside services.
It took Facebook two years (until 2010) to debut the new messaging system, which was an internal email basically. And even later, they integrated the two, so that chat messages could be sent “offline” and still sent to their messaging folder. This is now the easiest way to contact and talk to both your friends and people not on your friends list.
I need to take a step back, since we got sidetracked with chat. In 2007, what’s called the Facebook Platform was unveiled, which allowed developers to create tools to use within Facebook. This exploded with a surge of applications, including games. Some applications, like Horoscopes, Movie Reviews, etc, were pretty self-explanatory. But no one expected what would happen with Facebook games.
People joke about the success of Farmville, but check out these statistics below on the actual success of Facebook games across the board. This application feature drew in an unprecedented amount of traffic and gave Facebook a whole new use.
To see reviews of some Facebook games that I’ve tried, check them out here.
I think it’s safe to say that the inclusion of “applications” in general, gaming or otherwise, has definitely changed the landscape of Facebook.
In 2009, the “Like” feature was created. This little thumbs up meant that you could Like anything. A status, a picture, a link. It took awhile for the ability to Like a comment within a status, but they eventually came around. This feature created an easy way for people to engage with each other without needing any sort of significant contribution. “I read the status and enjoyed it, so I shall Like it.” There’s no comment needed, no deep insight. Just a click of a button.
I’m having a hard time finding a date for when it arrived, but following the Like button came a Share button. This changed the landscape in the way that we pass along information or things we like. This Share button now appears all over the internet and makes it easy to repost things you find interesting. Prior to this, you’d have to post the link of the item and it was difficult to share things that already lived on Facebook.
Up above, I already showcased what the original Facebook profile looked like. Well, it’s become little-by-little more colorful and more customizable. Other than basic layout changes, the first big change to the profile came when Facebook allowed you to choose five pictures to spotlight on your profile as well.
This innovation led to creative uses like the below:
This phase didn’t last long however. The problem lay in the fact that any pictures you were tagged in would take precedence so if you tried to control these pictures, they’d get overwritten or swapped out.
The next phase is what we now know as the Timeline. The idea of a “wall” has been replaced. All activity shows up on your Timeline and you have the ability to either remove content or just remove it from your Timeline or to even add highlights. If there was a picture of me graduating college that I especially loved, I could highlight it so it would take up a substantial amount of my Timeline. This Timeline also allows you to travel back in time and see posts easily from all different phases of your Facebook existence. That’s what made it possible for my awesome screen-captures of old statuses, etc.
And here we are…
People are complaining about the Timeline, but they did the same thing when the news feed was introduced and now that is clearly the best part of Facebook. Can you imagine not having the feed of your friends’ activity? I can’t even fathom it anymore. People complained about chat, about notes, about everything. But Facebook has continued to evolve.
It’s because Facebook evolved that it’s managed to surpass sites like MySpace, render the need for a LiveJournal null, eliminate programs like AIM and MSN Messenger, and direct traffic that would’ve gone to Addicting Games or Bored.com back to Facebook to play games. They’ve put thought into each addition and I’m excited for what comes next. With the addition of video chatting, will Skype be obliterated? Will Facebook continue to dominate the scene of social networking? Even giant Google couldn’t compete with its G+ site, that is now somewhat of a failure.
Zuckerberg, well played.