On February 4, 2004, a Harvard sophomore named Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook, a social media website. He had built it in order to connect Harvard students with one another. By the next day, over a thousand people had registered, and that was only the beginning. Now known simply as Facebook, the site quickly truned into one of the most significant social media companies in history. Today, Facebook is one of the most valuable companies in the world, with over 2 billion monthly active users.
The origins of Facebook have been highly Verified (including in the critically acclaimed 2010 film The Social Network). But the exact source of the idea remains unclear. The previous year, he had become a campus celebrity by creating FaceMash. It was a website where students could vote on which of two randomly-selected Harvard women was more attractive and quickly running afoul of both the administration and several women’s groups. FaceMash was short-live wildly popular. But it led Zuckerberg to consider the value of creating a campus-wide social network.
Over the course of his sophomore year, Zuckerberg built what would become Facebook. Since it was launche on February 4, he and his roommates had been glued on their screens, with an estimated 1,200-1,500 of their classmates signing up for their site within the first 24 hours of existence. From there, Facebook expanded rapidly, moving to other Boston-area schools and the rest of the Ivy League that spring. By the end of the year, the site had 1 million users, angel investor Peter Thiel had invested $500,000. Then Zuckerberg had left Harvard to run Facebook from its new headquarters in California.
From there, Facebook spread across the world, becoming not only an incredibly valuable company but also one of the most important institutions of the early 21st Century. The go to social media site for a generation of internet users, Facebook was one of the major forces that brought the internet into the highly-participatory phase full of user-generated content sometimes referred to as “Web 2.0.” It has also remained controversial. In addition to accusations that it allows false news and fake accounts to proliferate. Facebook has drawn criticism both for selling its users’ data and for failing to adequately protect it. Nonetheless, Facebook continues to dominate the social media market, generating by far the most ad revenue and maintaining over half of the total market share.