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FacebookFacebook (stylized facebook) is a social network service and website launched in February 2004 that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. As of January 2011, Facebook has more than 600 million active users. Users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Additionally, users may join common interest user groups, organized by workplace, school, or college, or other characteristics. The name of the service stems from the colloquial name for the book given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the US with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better. Facebook allows anyone who declares themselves to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website.

Zuckerberg at South by Southwest in 2008Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow computer science students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before opening to high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over.

A January 2009 Compete.com study ranked Facebook as the most used social network service by worldwide monthly active users, followed by MySpace. Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade "best-of" list, saying, "How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers' birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabulous before Facebook?" Quantcast estimates Facebook has 135.1 million monthly unique U.S. visitors in October 2010. According to Social Media Today as of April 2010, it is estimated that 41.6% of the U.S. population has a Facebook account.


History

Facemash

In early 2003, Adam D'Angelo, then a Caltech student who had been Mark Zuckerberg's best friend in high school, had developed the experimental, rudimentary social networking website Buddy Zoo, that was used by hundreds of thousands of people before D'Angelo shut it down. That summer, Zuckerberg and friends who were also computer science students worked coding for the summer in Boston and discussed the implication of D'Angelo's website's success with regard to the future of social networking on the Internet. In the fall, Zuckerberg, returning for his sophomore year at Harvard, wrote CourseMatch, a briefly popular site that helped Harvard students figure out what courses their friends were taking; and then, on October 28, 2003, he wrote Facemash, a site that, according to the Harvard Crimson, represented a Harvard University version of Hot or Not.

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.

That night, Zuckerberg made the following blog entries:

I'm a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it's not even 10 p.m. and it's a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland [dorm] facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.
—9:48 pm

Yea, it's on. I'm not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can't really ever be sure with farm animals...), but I like the idea of comparing two people together.
—11:09 pm

Let the hacking begin.
—12:58 am

According to The Harvard Crimson, Facemash "used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the 'hotter' person". To accomplish this, Zuckerberg hacked into the protected areas of Harvard's computer network and copied the houses' private dormitory ID images.

Harvard at that time did not have a student directory with photos, and basic information and the initial site generated 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online. That the initial site mirrored people’s physical community—with their real identities—represented the key aspects of what later became Facebook.

"Perhaps Harvard will squelch it for legal reasons without realizing its value as a venture that could possibly be expanded to other schools (maybe even ones with good-looking people...)," Zuckerberg wrote in his personal blog. "But one thing is certain, and it’s that I’m a jerk for making this site. Oh well. Someone had to do it eventually..." The site was quickly forwarded to several campus group list-servers but was shut down a few days later by the Harvard administration. Zuckerberg was charged by the administration with breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy, and faced expulsion, but ultimately the charges were dropped.

Zuckerberg expanded on this initial project that semester by creating a social study tool ahead of an art history final by uploading 500 Augustan images to a website, with one image per page along with a comment section. He opened the site up to his classmates and people started sharing their notes. "The professor said it had the best grades of any final he’d ever given. This was my first social hack. With Facebook, I wanted to make something that would make Harvard more open," Zuckerberg said in a TechCrunch interview.

Thefacebook

In January 2004, the following semester, Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website. He was inspired, he said, by an editorial in The Harvard Crimson about the Facemash incident. "It is clear that the technology needed to create a centralized Website is readily available," the paper observed. "The benefits are many." On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched "Thefacebook", originally located at thefacebook.com. "Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard," Zuckerberg told The Harvard Crimson. "I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week." "When Mark finished the site, he told a couple of friends. And then one of them suggested putting it on the Kirkland House online mailing list, which was...three hundred people," according to roommate Dustin Moskovitz. "And, once they did that, several dozen people joined, and then they were telling people at the other houses. By the end of the night, we were...actively watching the registration process. Within twenty-four hours, we had somewhere between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred registrants."

The homepage of Thefacebook on February 12, 2004

The homepage of Thefacebook on February 12, 2004

Just six days after the site launched, three Harvard seniors, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, accused Zuckerberg of intentionally misleading them into believing he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com, while he was instead using their ideas to build a competing product.

The three complained to the Harvard Crimson and the newspaper began an investigation. Zuckerberg used his site, TheFacebook.com, to look up members of the site who identified themselves as members of the Crimson. Then he examined a log of failed logins to see if any of the Crimson members had ever entered an incorrect password into TheFacebook.com. In the cases in which they had entered failed logins, Mark tried to use them to access the Crimson members' Harvard email accounts. He successfully accessed two of them. The three later filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, later settling.

Membership was initially restricted to students of Harvard College, and within the first month, more than half the undergraduate population at Harvard was registered on the service. Eduardo Saverin (business aspects), Dustin Moskovitz (programmer), Andrew McCollum (graphic artist), and Chris Hughes soon joined Zuckerberg to help promote the website. In March 2004, Facebook expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. This expansion continued when it opened to all Ivy League and Boston area schools, and gradually most universities in Canada and the United States. Facebook incorporated in the summer of 2004 and the entrepreneur Sean Parker, who had been informally advising Zuckerberg, became the company's president. In June 2004, Facebook moved its base of operations to Palo Alto, California. The company dropped The from its name after purchasing the domain name facebook.com in 2005 for $200,000.

Facebook

On October 1 2005, Facebook expanded to twenty-one universities in the United Kingdom, the entire Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) system in Mexico, the entire University of Puerto Rico network in Puerto Rico, and the whole University of the Virgin Islands network in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Facebook launched a high school version in September 2005, which Zuckerberg called the next logical step. At that time, high school networks required an invitation to join. Facebook later expanded membership eligibility to employees of several companies, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft. On December 11, 2005, universities in Australia and New Zealand were added to the Facebook network, bringing its size to 2,000+ colleges and 25,000 + high schools throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Facebook was then opened on September 26, 2006, to everyone of ages 13 and older with a valid e-mail address. In October 2008, Facebook announced that it was to set up its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

Total active users

Date Users
(in millions)
Days later Monthly growth
August 26, 2008 100 1,665 178.38%
April 8, 2009 200 225 13.33%
September 15, 2009 300 150 10%
February 5, 2010 400 143 6.99%
July 21, 2010 500 166 4.52%
January 5, 2011 600 168 3.57%

Recently, Facebook.com was the top social network across eight individual markets in the Southeast Asia/Oceania region (Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Vietnam), while other brands commanded the top positions in certain markets, including Google-owned Orkut in India and Brazil, Mixi.jp in Japan, RenRen in China (where Facebook is currently inaccessible), CyWorld in South Korea and Yahoo!’s Wretch.cc in Taiwan.

In 2010 Facebook began to pro-actively involve its users in the running of the website, by inviting users to become beta testers after passing a question and answer based selection process, and also by creating a new section known as Facebook Engineering Puzzles where users would solve computational problems and then potentially be hired by Facebook.

Financials

Facebook received its first investment of US$500,000 in June 2004 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, in exchange for 7% of the company. This was followed a year later by $12.7 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, and then $27.5 million more from Greylock Partners. A leaked cash flow statement showed that during the 2005 fiscal year, Facebook had a net loss of $3.63 million.

Facebook's former headquarters in downtown Palo Alto, California.

Facebook's former headquarters in downtown Palo Alto, California.

With the sale of social networking website MySpace to News Corp on July 19, 2005, rumors surfaced about the possible sale of Facebook to a larger media company. Zuckerberg had already said he did not want to sell the company, and denied rumors to the contrary. On March 28, 2006, BusinessWeek reported that a potential acquisition of Facebook was under negotiation. Facebook reportedly declined an offer of $750 million from an unknown bidder, and it was rumored the asking price rose as high as $2 billion.

In September 2006, serious talks between Facebook and Yahoo! took place concerning acquisition of Facebook, with prices reaching as high as $1 billion. Thiel, by then a board member of Facebook, indicated that Facebook's internal valuation was around $8 billion based on their projected revenues of $1 billion by 2015, comparable to Viacom's MTV brand, a company with a shared target demographic audience.

On July 17, 2007, Zuckerberg said that selling Facebook was unlikely because he wanted to keep it independent, saying "We're not really looking to sell the company... We're not looking to IPO anytime soon. It's just not the core focus of the company." In September 2007, Microsoft approached Facebook, proposing an investment in return for a 5% stake in the company, offering an estimated $300–500 million. That month, other companies, including Google, expressed interest in buying a portion of Facebook.

On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a total implied value of around $15 billion. However, Microsoft bought preferred stock that carried special rights, such as "liquidation preferences" that meant Microsoft would get paid before common stockholders if the company is sold. Microsoft's purchase also included rights to place international ads on Facebook. In November 2007, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invested $60 million in Facebook.

In August 2008, BusinessWeek reported that private sales by employees, as well as purchases by venture capital firms, had and were being done at share prices that put the company's total valuation at between $3.75 billion and $5 billion. In October 2008, Zuckerberg said "I don't think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did... In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today."

Entrance to Facebook's current headquarters in the Stanford Research Park, Palo Alto, California.

Entrance to Facebook's current headquarters in the Stanford Research Park, Palo Alto, California.

In August 2009, Facebook acquired social media real-time news aggregator FriendFeed, a startup created by the former Google employee and Gmail's first engineer Paul Buchheit who, while at Google, coined the phrase "Don't be evil". In September 2009, Facebook claimed that it had turned cash flow positive for the first time. In February 2010, Facebook acquired Malaysian contact-importing startup Octazen Solutions. On April 2, 2010, Facebook announced acquisition of photo-sharing service called Divvyshot for an undisclosed amount. In June 2010, an online marketplace for trading private company stock reflected a valuation of $11.5 billion.

At the All Things Digital conference in June 2010, Zuckerberg was asked if he expected to remain CEO if the company went public. Zuckerberg said he did, adding that he doesn't "think about going public ... much." He said he did not have a date in mind for a potential IPO.

Timeline of Facebook

2003

* October 28, 2003: Mark Zuckerberg releases Facemash, the predecessor to Facebook. It was described as a Harvard University version of Hot or Not,

2004

* January 2004: Zuckerberg begins writing Facebook.
* January 11, 2004: Zuckerberg registers thefacebook.com domain.
* February 4, 2004: Zuckerberg launches Facebook.
* March 2004: Facebook expands to Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and Yale University.
* April 13, 2004: Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin form Thefacebook.com LLC, a partnership
* June 2004: Facebook receives its first investment from Peter Thiel for US$500,000.
* June 2004: Facebook incorporates into a new company, and Sean Parker (founder of Napster) becomes its president.
* June 2004: Facebook moves its base of operations to Palo Alto, California.
* August 2004: To compete with growing campus-only service i2hub, Zuckerberg launches Wirehog. It is a precursor to Facebook Platform applications.
* September 2004: ConnectU files a lawsuit against Zuckerberg and other Facebook founders

2005

* May 26, 2005: Accel Partners invests $13 million into Facebook.
* July 19, 2005: News Corp acquires MySpace, spurring rumors about the possible sale of Facebook to a larger media company.
* August 23, 2005: Facebook acquires Facebook.com domain for $200,000.
* September 2005: Facebook launches a high school version of the website.

2006

* 2006: A leaked cash flow statement shows that Facebook had a net loss of $3.63 million for the 2005 fiscal year.
* March 28, 2006: A potential acquisition of Facebook is reportedly under negotiations, for $750 million first, then later $2 billion.
* September 2006: Facebook discusses with Yahoo! about the latter possibly acquiring the former, for $1 billion.
* September 26, 2006: Facebook is open to everyone aged 13 and over, and with a valid email address.

2007

* March 9, 2007: Facebook launches a countersuit in regards to Social Butterfly, a project put out by The Winklevoss Chang Group, an alleged partnership between ConnectU and i2hub. It named among the defendants ConnectU, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Divya Narendra, and Wayne Chang, founder of i2hub.
* July 17, 2007: Zuckerberg announces that selling Facebook is unlikely because he wants to keep it independent.
* September 2007: Microsoft approaches Facebook, proposing an investment for a 5% stake in the company for $300–500 million.
* October 24, 2007: Microsoft announces that it purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, a deal that values Facebook at $15 billion.
* November 2007: Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invests $60 million in Facebook.

2008

* June 2008: Facebook settles both lawsuits, ConnectU vs Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg et al. and intellectual property theft, Wayne Chang et al. over The Winklevoss Chang Group's Social Butterfly project. The settlement effectively had Facebook acquiring ConnectU for $20 million in cash and over $1.2 million in shares, valued at $45 million based on $15 billion company valuation.
* August 2008: Employees reportedly privately sell their shares to venture capital firms, at a company valuation of between $3.75 billion to $5 billion.
* October 2008: Facebook sets up its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

2009

* August 2009: Facebook acquires FriendFeed.
* September 2009: Facebook claims that it has turned cash flow positive for the first time.

2010

* February 2010: Facebook acquires Malaysian contact-importing startup Octazen Solutions.
* April 2, 2010: Facebook announces the acquisition of photo-sharing service called Divvyshot for an undisclosed amount.
* April 19, 2010: Facebook introduces Community Pages, which are Pages that are populated with articles from Wikipedia.
* April 21, 2010: Facebook introduces Instant Personalization, starting with Microsoft Docs, Yelp, and Pandora.
* June 2010: Facebook employees sell shares of the company on SecondMarket at a company valuation of $11.5 billion.
* October 1, 2010: The Social Network, a film about the beginnings of Facebook directed by David Fincher is released. The film is met with widespread critical acclaim as well as commercial success; however, Mark Zuckerberg claims the film to be a largely inaccurate account of what happened.

2011

* January 2011: $500 million is invested into Facebook for 1% of the company, placing its worth at $50 billion.


Company

Most of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising. Microsoft is Facebook's exclusive partner for serving banner advertising, and as such Facebook only serves advertisements that exist in Microsoft's advertisement inventory. According to comScore, an internet marketing research company, Facebook collects as much data from its visitors as Google and Microsoft, but considerably less than Yahoo!. In 2010, the security team began expanding its efforts to reduce the risks to users' privacy. On November 6, 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Beacon, which was an ultimately failed attempt to advertise to friends of users using the knowledge of what purchases friends made.

Facebook generally has a lower clickthrough rate (CTR) for advertisements than most major websites. For banner advertisements, they have generally received one-fifth the number of clicks on Facebook compared to the Web as a whole. This means that a smaller percentage of Facebook's users click on advertisements than many other large websites. For example, while Google users click on the first advertisement for search results an average of 8% of the time (80,000 clicks for every one million searches), Facebook's users click on advertisements an average of 0.04% of the time (400 clicks for every one million pages).

Sarah Smith, who was Facebook's Online Sales Operations Manager, confirmed that successful advertising campaigns can have clickthrough rates as low as 0.05% to 0.04%, and that CTR for ads tend to fall within two weeks. Competing social network MySpace's CTR, in comparison, is about 0.1%, 2.5 times better than Facebook's but still low compared to many other websites. Explanations for Facebook's low CTR include the fact that Facebook's users are more technologically savvy and therefore use ad blocking software to hide advertisements, the users are younger and therefore are better at ignoring advertising messages, and that on MySpace, users spend more time browsing through content while on Facebook, users spend their time communicating with friends and therefore have their attention diverted away from advertisements.

On pages for brands and products, however, some companies have reported CTR as high as 6.49% for Wall posts. Involver, a social marketing platform, announced in July 2008 that it managed to attain a CTR of 0.7% on Facebook (over 10 times the typical CTR for Facebook ad campaigns) for its first client, Serena Software, managing to convert 1.1 million views into 8,000 visitors to their website. A study found that for video advertisements on Facebook, over 40% of users who viewed the videos viewed the entire video, while the industry average was 25% for in-banner video ads.

Revenues
(estimated, in millions US$)
Year Revenue Growth
2006 $52
2007 $150 188%
2008 $280 87%
2009 $&0000000000000775000000775 177%
2010 $&00000000000020000000002,000 158%

Facebook has over 1,700 employees, and offices in 12 countries. Regarding Facebook ownership, Mark Zuckerberg owns 24% of the company, Accel Partners owns 10%, Digital Sky Technologies owns 10%, Dustin Moskovitz owns 6%, Eduardo Saverin owns 5%, Sean Parker owns 4%, Peter Thiel owns 3%, Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital Partners own between 1 to 2% each, Microsoft owns 1.3%, Li Ka-shing owns 0.75%, the Interpublic Group owns less than 0.5%, a small group of current and former employees and celebrities own less than 1% each, including Matt Cohler, Jeff Rothschild, Adam D'Angelo, Chris Hughes, and Owen Van Natta, while Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus have sizable holdings of the company, and the remaining 30% or so are owned by employees, an undisclosed number of celebrities, and outside investors. Adam D'Angelo, chief technology officer and friend of Zuckerberg, resigned in May 2008. Reports claimed that he and Zuckerberg began quarreling, and that he was no longer interested in partial ownership of the company.

On November 15, 2010, Facebook announced it had acquired FB.com from the American Farm Bureau Federation for an undisclosed amount. On January 11, 2011, the Farm Bureau disclosed 8.5 million in "domain sales income", making the acquisition of FB.com one of the ten highest domain sales in history.


Website

Facebook features

This is a list of features that can be found on the Facebook website, as well as technology features on the website.

Facebook's homepage features a login form on the top right for existing users, and a registration form directly underneath for new visitors.

Facebook's homepage features a login form on the top right for existing users, and a registration form directly underneath for new visitors.

General

Chat

On April 5, 2008, Facebook pre-released Facebook Chat. As of April 23, 2008, Facebook Chat was released to the entire Facebook user base. Users are only able to chat with their Facebook friends and on a one-to-one basis, although a user may chat with multiple friends simultaneously through separate chat interfaces. Instant messaging clients that currently support Facebook Chat include AOL Instant Messenger, eBuddy, Flock, Miranda IM, Trillian, Empathy, Digsby, Pidgin, Adium, Nimbuzz, FIM (Windows Mobile / Windows Phone 7), Palringo (Windows Mobile), Meebo, Tokbox as well as QIP Infium with a Firefox plugin. Windows Live Messenger 2011 (Wave 4) can connect to Facebook as well. Facebook Chat can also be run on the desktop using Gabtastik, a dedicated web chat browser. On May 13, 2008, a Facebook developer announced that they are working on XMPP support, allowing hundreds of instant messaging clients to interoperate with the service; this functionality became operational on February 10, 2010. Some Facebook help article containing all the information required to connect most popular XMPP supporting IM clients to Facebook's chat service is available.

Credits

Facebook Credits are a virtual currency you can use to buy gifts, and virtual goods in many games and applications on the Facebook platform. As of July 2010, users of Facebook can purchase Facebook credits in Australian Dollars, British Pound, Canadian Dollars, Chilean Peso, Colombian Peso, Danish Krone, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Japanese Yen, Norwegian Krone, Swedish Krona, Swiss Franc, Turkish Lira, US Dollars, and Venezuelan Bolivar. Facebook credits can be used on many popular games such as Happy Aquarium, Happy Island, Zoo Paradise, Happy Pets, Hello City, FarmVille, and Mafia Wars.

As on 30 August 2010, facebook gifts were disabled and from then on, facebook credits are being used for the Games alone.

Easter eggs

The following are easter eggs that Facebook had at one time or another.

* At one time, entering the Konami Code followed by Enter at the home page caused a lensflare-style series of circles to display when clicking, typing, or scrolling.
* Facebook chat supports some unusual emoticons.
* Asking "how is babby formed?" with the Questions feature released September 23, 2010 will Rickroll the user.
* A user can change his/her language to Leet Speak, Pirate language, and upside down English.

Facebook Live

On August 13, 2010 Facebook launched a new service called "'Facebook Live'", a live streaming video channel that is intended to keep Facebook users updated to what is happening on the social networking site. The service, powered by Livestream, will feature videos from Facebook staff members and celebrity interviews, but not designed for Facebook users to showcase their own videos. All the content shown on Facebook Live will have some tie-in with Facebook products, features, or how people are using the site. Facebook said this is not an opening to get them into the video distribution space. The first official guest was America Ferrera, the leading actress in the television series Ugly Betty. She discussed her new independent film The Dry Land, that was being promoted almost exclusively through social media channels.

IPv6

According to a June 2010 report by Network World, Facebook said that it was offering "experimental, non-production" support for IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol. The news about Facebook's IPv6 support was expected; Facebook told Network World in February 2010, that it planned to support native IPv6 user requests "by the midpoint of this year."

In a presentation at the Google IPv6 Implementors Conference, Facebook's network engineers said it was "easy to make [the] site available on v6." Facebook said it deployed dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 support on its routers, and that it made no changes to its hosts in order to support IPv6. Facebook also said it was supporting an emerging encapsulation mechanism known as Locator/Identifier Separation Protocol (LISP), which separates Internet addresses from endpoint identifiers to improve the scalability of IPv6 deployments. "Facebook was the first major Web site on LISP (v4 and v6)," Facebook engineers said during their presentation. Facebook said that using LISP allowed them to deploy IPv6 services quickly with no extra cost. Facebook's IPv6 services are available at www.v6.facebook.com, m.v6.facebook.com, www.lisp6.facebook.com and m.lisp6.facebook.com.

Messages and Inbox

Since the website's founding, it has allowed users to send messages to each other. A facebook user can send a message to any number of his/her friends at a time. Deleting a message from one's inbox does not delete it from the inbox of other users, thus disabling a sender to redo a message sent by him.

On November 15, 2010, Facebook announced a new "Facebook Messages" service. In a media event that day, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "It's true that people will be able to have a @facebook.com email addresses, but it's not email." The launch of such a feature had been anticipated for some time before the announcement, with some calling it a "Gmail killer." The system, to be available to all of the website's users, combines text messaging, instant messaging, emails, and regular messages, and will include privacy settings similar to those of other Facebook services.

Networks, Groups, and Like Pages

Facebook allows different networks and groups to which many users can join. It also allows privacy settings on basis of networks. Groups are used for discussions and events etc. Groups are a way of enabling a number of people to come together online to share information and discuss specific subjects. They are increasingly used by clubs, companies and public sector organizations to engage with stakeholders - be they members of the public, employees, members, service users, shareholders or customers. A group includes but is not limited to the following: the members who have joined, recent news contents, wall contents, photos, posted items, videos and all associated comments of such items. In this respect, groups are similar to pages but contain more features. Groups are limited to 300 groups per user, though it is possible to find some users with more than 300 groups because it was possible to dodge this limit in a few ways, until recently when they fixed those exploits. The urls of group pages start with http://www.facebook.com/group... and do not include the name of the group.

Individuals or companies can create "Like Pages" which allows fans of an individual, organisation, product, service, or concept to join a facebook fan club. Like Pages look and behave much like a user's personal private profile, with some significant differences. Public Profiles are integrated with Facebook's advertising system, allowing Public Profile owners to easily advertise to Facebook's users. Owners can send updates to their fans, which shows up on their home page. They also have access to insights and analytics of their fan base. Early on, users had the option to "become a fan" of the page until 19 April 2010 when the option was later changed to "like" the page. While an individual with a personal profile can acquire up to 5,000 friends, a "Like Page" can have an unlimited number of "Likers". "Like Pages" can also be customized by adding new Tabs using the Static FBML application. This powerful feature can bring additional functionality to a page such as e-mail collection, specialized content, or a landing page for sales activity. The urls of "Like Pages" start with http://www.facebook.com/pages... and do include the name of the individual etc. liked.

News Feed

On 6 September 2006, Ruchi Sangvhi announced a new home page feature called News Feed. Originally, when users logged into Facebook, they were presented with a customizable version of their own profile. The new layout, by contrast, created an alternative home page in which users saw a constantly updated list of their friends' Facebook activity. News Feed highlights information that includes profile changes, upcoming events, and birthdays, among other updates. This has enabled spammers and other users to manipulate these features by creating illegitimate events or posting fake birthdays to attract attention to their profile or cause. News Feed also shows conversations taking place between the walls of a user's friends. An integral part of the News Feed interface is the Mini-Feed, a news stream on the user's profile page that shows updates about that user. Unlike in the News Feed, the user can delete events from the Mini-Feed after they appear so that they are no longer visible to profile visitors.

Initially, the addition of the News Feed caused some discontent among Facebook users. Many users complained that the News Feed was too cluttered and full of undesired information. Others were concerned that the News Feed made it too easy for other people to track activities like changes in relationship status, events, and conversations with other users. This tracking is often casually referred to as "Facebook-Stalking." In response to this dissatisfaction, creator Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology for the site's failure to include appropriate customizable privacy features. Thereafter, users were able to control what types of information were shared automatically with friends. Currently, users may prevent friends from seeing updates about several types of especially private activities, although other events are not customizable in this way.

With the introduction of the "New Facebook" - in early February 2010 - came a total redesign of the pages, several new features and changes to News Feeds. On their personal Feeds (now integrated with Walls), users were given the option of removing updates from any application as well as choosing the size they show up on the page. Furthermore, the community feed (containing recent actions by the user's friends) contained options to instantly select whether to hear more or less about certain friends or applications.

Notifications

Notifications of the more important events, for example, someone sharing a link on the user's wall or commenting on a post the user previously commented on, briefly appear for a few seconds in the bottom left as a popup message (if the user is online), and a red counter is updated on the toolbar at the top, thus allowing the user to keep track of all the most recent notifications.

Phone

On September 2010, rumors of a "Facebook Phone" similar to Google's Android, circulated in business and tech industry news. In an interview with well-known technology blog Techcrunch, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was noted to have said, "Our strategy is very horizontal. We're trying to build a social layer for everything," while denying that they were attempting to compete with the Apple iPhone or Android.

Poke

The poke feature is intended to be a "nudge" to attract the attention of another user. Many facebook users use this feature to attract attention or say "hello" to their friends. A previous version of Facebook's FAQ gave additional insight into the origin of the feature, stating: "When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose. People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings."

There are several applications on Facebook which extend the idea of the poke feature by allowing users to perform other actions to their friends—such as "kick" or "wave to". People often reciprocate pokes back and forth until one side gives up, an event known as a "Poke War".

Smartphones

Many new smartphones offer access to the Facebook services either through their web-browsers or applications. The Facebook iPhone-compatible web site was launched August 2007 and as of July 2008 over 1.5 million people used it regularly, at the point when a free application for the iOS named "Facebook for iPhone" was launched. Version 2.0 of this app was released in September 2008 and featured improved services such as being able to respond to friend requests and notifications. Version 3.0 was released in August 2009 and added features such as events, and uploading video with an iPhone 3GS. In the latest update for the Facebook for iPhone app, GPS use is also integrated in the app under the section "places" in which you can discover moments and experiences when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time. This app is compatible with iPhone 3G, 3Gs, and 4, running iOS 3.0 or later.

Facebook mobile graphical user interface.

Facebook mobile graphical user interface.

Nokia offers a Facebook app on its Ovi Store for Nokia S60 devices such as the N97 and contains most of the functionality of the full website.

Google's Android 2.0 OS automatically includes an official Facebook app. The first device to use this is the Motorola Droid. The app has options to sync Facebook friends with contacts, which adds profile pictures and status updates to the contacts list. Microsoft also offers an Facebook application for its Windows Mobile platform, including features such as messaging, uploading pictures and video straight from the device, managing profile information, contact integration allowing users to call anyone in their friends list that has their number in their profile information. It is also possible to add an chat feature to Windows Mobile via third-party software. Research In Motion also offers a Facebook application for the BlackBerry. It includes a range of functions, including an ability to integrate Facebook events into the BlackBerry calendar, and using Facebook profile pictures for Caller ID.

Status Updates

Facebook has a feature called "status updates" (also referred to simply as "status") which allows users to post messages for all their friends to read. In turn, friends can respond with their own comments, and also press the "Like" button to show that they enjoyed reading it. A user's most recent status update appears on the user's wall, and is also noted in the "Recently updated" section of a user's friend list.

Originally, the purpose of the feature was to allow users to inform their friends of their current "status" (for example, their current feelings, whereabouts, or actions) by referring to themselves in the third person (for example, "George is happy" or "John is with Robert at his house"). However, users are no longer required to write in the third person. Facebook originally prompted the status update with "Username is..." and Facebook users filled in the rest. However, on December 13, 2007, the requirement to start a status update with is was removed. The question "What are you doing right now?" was introduced. In March 2009, the status update question was changed from "What are you doing right now?" to "What's on your mind?"

In 2009, Facebook added the feature to tag certain friends (or groups etc.) within one's status update by adding an @ character before their name, turning the friend's name into a link to their profile and including the message on the friend's wall.

URL shortener

On December 14, 2009, Facebook launched its own URL shortener based on FB.me domain name. From that point on, all links based on facebook.com can be accessed under fb.me, which is seven characters shorter.

Usernames

Starting June 13, 2009, Facebook introduced a feature that allowed users to choose a Facebook username to make user location easier. The user is able to direct others to their page through a simple link such as www.facebook.com/username rather than an otherwise complex URL. This feature on Facebook quickly spread, with more than 1 million users registering usernames in the first three hours. Usernames are now available to any existing or newly registered user.

According to the FAQ, "Facebook reserves the right to remove and/or reclaim any username at any time for any reason".

Wall

The Wall is a space on each user's profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see while displaying the time and date the message was written. One user's Wall is visible to anyone with the ability to see his or her full profile, and different users' Wall posts show up in an individual's News Feed. Many users use their friends' Walls for leaving short, temporal notes. More private discourse is saved for messages, which are sent to a user's inbox, and are visible only to the sender and recipient(s) of the message, much like email.

In July 2007, Facebook allowed users to post attachments to the Wall, whereas previously the Wall was limited to text only. In May 2008, the Wall-to-Wall for each profile was limited to only 40 posts. Recently Facebook has allowed users to insert html code in boxes attached to the wall via apps like Static FBML which has allowed marketers to track use of their fan pages with Google Analytics.

Applications

Events

Facebook events are a way for members to let friends know about upcoming events in their community and to organize social gatherings. Events require an event name, network, host name, event type, start time, location, and a guest list of friends invited. Events can be Public or Private. Private events cannot be found in searches and are by invitation only. People who have not been invited cannot view Private event description, Wall or photos. They also will not see any Feed stories about the event. When setting up an event the user can choose to allow friends to upload photos or videos. Note that unlike real world events, all events are treated as separate entities (when the reality is some events sit inside other events, going to one event would preclude going to another, and so on).

Marketplace

In May 2007, Facebook introduced the Facebook Marketplace allowing users to post free classified ads within the following categories: For Sale, Housing, Jobs, and Other. Ads can be posted in either available or wanted format. The market place is available for all Facebook users and is currently free. In 2009, Facebook transferred ownership of the Marketplace to Oodle.

Notes

Facebook Notes was introduced on 22 August 2006, a blogging feature that allowed tags and embeddable images. Users were later able to import blogs from Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other blogging services.

A recent use of Notes includes the Internet meme - "25 Random Things About Me" which involves writing 25 things about the user that their friends don't already know about them and using the tag function to ask 25 friends to also do so. Nearly 5 million "25 Random Things" notes were written on Facebook profiles in the first week of February 2009.

Places

Facebook announced Places on August 18, 2010. It is a feature that lets users "check in" to Facebook using a mobile device to let a user's friends know where they are at the moment. This feature is already known from Foursquare, a social network where users share their geolocation data via mobile phones.

In November 2010, Facebook announced "Deals", a subset of the Places offering, which allows for users to check in from restaurants, supermarkets, bars, and coffee shops using an app on a mobile device and then be rewarded discounts, coupons, and free merchandise. This feature is marketed as a digital version of a loyalty card or coupon where a customer gets rewarded for loyal buying behavior.

Available countries: places is currently available only in a few countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Finland, Ireland, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, with many more on the way.

Supported phones: On October 10, 2010, Places became available on Blackberry, after iPhone. The Android OS is also places capable. Other users, including Windows Mobile users, must use a HTML5 browser to use Places via Facebook Touch Site.

Facebook Platform

The Facebook Platform provides a set of APIs and tools which enable 3rd party developers to integrate with the "open graph" — whether through applications on Facebook.com or external websites and devices. Launched on May 24, 2007, Facebook Platform has evolved from enabling development just on Facebook.com to one also supporting integration across the web and devices.

Facebook Platform Statistics as of May 2010:

* More than one million developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries
* More than 550,000 active applications currently on Facebook Platform
* Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications
* More than 250,000 websites have integrated with Facebook Platform
* More than 100 million Facebook users engage with Facebook on external websites every month

Third party companies provide application metrics, and several blogs have sprung up in response to the clamor for Facebook applications. On July 4, 2007, Altura Ventures announced the "Altura 1 Facebook Investment Fund," becoming the world's first Facebook-only venture capital firm.

On August 29, 2007, Facebook changed the way in which the popularity of applications is measured, to give attention to the more engaging applications, following criticism that ranking applications only by the number of people who had installed the application was giving an advantage to the highly viral, yet useless applications. Tech blog Valleywag has criticized Facebook Applications, labeling them a "cornucopia of uselessness." Others have called for limiting third-party applications so the Facebook "user experience" is not degraded.

Primarily attempting to create viral applications is a method that has certainly been employed by numerous Facebook application developers. Stanford University even offered a class in the Fall of 2007, entitled, Computer Science (CS) 377W: "Create Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Facebook". Numerous applications created by the class were highly successful, and ranked amongst the top Facebook applications, with some achieving over 3.5 million users in a month.

History of the Facebook Platform

Facebook launched the Facebook Platform on May 24, 2007, providing a framework for software developers to create applications that interact with core Facebook features. A markup language called Facebook Markup Language was introduced simultaneously; it is used to customize the "look and feel" of applications that developers create. Using the Platform, Facebook launched several new applications, including Gifts, allowing users to send virtual gifts to each other, Marketplace, allowing users to post free classified ads, Events, giving users a method of informing their friends about upcoming events, and Video, letting users share homemade videos with one another.

Applications that have been created on the Platform include chess, which both allow users to play games with their friends. In such games, a user's moves are saved on the website, allowing the next move to be made at any time rather than immediately after the previous move.

By November 3, 2007, seven thousand applications had been developed on the Facebook Platform, with another hundred created every day. By the second annual f8 developers conference on July 23, 2008, the number of applications had grown to 33,000, and the number of registered developers had exceeded 400,000.

Within a few months of launching the Facebook Platform, issues arose regarding "application spam", which involves Facebook applications "spamming" users to request it be installed.

Facebook integration was announced for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DSi on June 1, 2009 at E3. On November 18, 2009, Sony announced an integration with Facebook to deliver the first phase of a variety of new features to further connect and enhance the online social experiences of PlayStation 3. On February 2, 2010, Facebook announced the release of HipHop for PHP as an opensource project.

High-level Platform components

Graph API

The Graph API is the core of Facebook Platform, enabling developers to read and write data to Facebook. It provides a simple and consistent view of the social graph, uniformly representing objects (e.g., people, photos, events, and pages) and the connections between them (e.g., friendships, likes, and photo tags).

Authentication

Facebook authentication enables developers’ applications to interact with the Graph API on behalf of Facebook users, and it provides a single-sign on mechanism across web, mobile, and desktop apps.

Social plugins

Social plugins – including the Like Button, Recommendations, and Activity Feed – enable developers to provide social experiences to their users with just a few lines of HTML. All social plugins are extensions of Facebook and are specifically designed so no user data is shared with the sites on which they appear.

Open Graph protocol

The Open Graph protocol enables developers to integrate their pages into the social graph. These pages gain the functionality of other graph objects including profile links and stream updates for connected users.The implications that the Open Graph may have on the web as a whole relate significantly to the idea of search engines. While currently Google still attracts more traffic than any other website, Facebook is a close second. Even without a good internal search engine, Facebook already drives more traffic for some searches, specifically social searches, than Google itself. And in attempting to link Facebook with the rest of the web, the Open Graph is creating Facebook’s own extensive and highly interactive version of a search engine. It is important to note, however, that Google still holds significant importance in the large scheme of things, and even if Facebook does surpass Google, Google will likely continue to warrant enough traffic to play a large role in the online world.

Facebook Markup Language

Facebook Markup Language ("FBML") is a variant-evolved subset of HTML with some elements removed. It allows Facebook Application developers to customise the "look and feel" of their applications, to a limited extent. It is the specification of how to encode content so that Facebook's servers can read and publish it, which is needed in the Facebook-specific feed so that Facebook's system can properly parse content and publish it as specified. FBML set by any application is cached by Facebook until a subsequent API call replaces it. Facebook also offers specialised Facebook Javascript (FBJS) and library.

By the end of 2010, Facebook will no longer be accepting new FBML applications, but will continue to support existing FBML tabs and applications. Facebook recommends the use of iframes for new application development.

Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect is a set of APIs from Facebook that enable Facebook members to log onto third-party websites, applications, mobile devices and gaming systems with their Facebook identity. While logged in, users can connect with friends via these media and post information and updates to their Facebook profile. Developers can use these services to help their users connect and share with their Facebook friends on and off of Facebook and increase engagement for their website or application.

Originally unveiled during Facebook’s developer conference, F8, in July 2008, Facebook Connect became generally available in December 2008. According to an article from The New York Times, "Some say the services are representative of surprising new thinking in Silicon Valley. Instead of trying to hoard information about their users, the Internet companies (including Facebook, Google, MySpace and Twitter) all share at least some of that data so people do not have to enter the same identifying information again and again on different sites."

Since launching Facebook Connect, the company has rolled out additional features related to the services some of which include: Translations for Connect; Facebook Connect Wizard and Facebook Connect for the Mobile Web.

Facebook Connect cannot be used by users in locations that cannot access Facebook (e.g. China), even if the third-party site is otherwise accessible from that location.

Questions

In May 2010, Facebook began testing and software production.The Questions is, an application in which users submit questions for their friends to answer. It is expected to compete directly with services such as Yahoo! Answers.

Photos

One of the most popular applications on Facebook is the Photos application, where users can upload albums of photos, tag friends helped by face recognition technology, and comment on photos. According to Facebook,

* 50+ billion user photos (in July 2010)
* More than 1.5 petabytes (1.5 million gigabytes) of photo storage used (in May 2009).
* 220 million photos added each week which take up 25 terabytes of disk space (in May 2009).
* 3+ billion photo images served to users every day (in May 2007).
* 550,000+ images served per second during peak traffic windows (in May 2009).

Videos

During the time that Facebook released its platform, it also released an application of its own for sharing videos on Facebook. Users can add their videos with the service by uploading video, adding video through Facebook Mobile, and using a webcam recording feature. Additionally, users can "tag" their friends in videos they add much like the way users can tag their friends in photos, except the location of the friend in the video is not displayed. Users also have the option of video messaging. Videos cannot be placed in categories, whereas photos are sorted by albums.

Former features

FBML

Facebook Markup Language (FBML) is considered to be Facebook's own version of HTML. While you can use many of the same tags HTML in FBML, there are also important tags you cannot use such as HTML, HEAD and BODY. Also, you are unable to use JavaScript with FBML.

According to Facebook Markup Language (FBML) Developer's page, FBML is in the process of being deprecated. No new features will be added to FBML and developers are recommended to develop new applications utilizing HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

Gifts

In February 2007, Facebook added a new virtual gift feature to the website. Friends could send gifts, small icons of novelty items designed by former Apple designer Susan Kare, to each other by selecting one from Facebook's virtual gift shop and adding a message. Gifts given to a user appear on the recipient's wall with the giver's message, unless the giver decided to give the gift privately, in which case the giver's name and message is not displayed to other users. Additionally, all gifts (including private gifts) received by a user are displayed in the recipient's gift box (right above their wall on their profile), marked with either the first name of the user (for public gifts) or the word "Private." An Anonymous option is also available, by which anyone with profile access can see the gift, but only the recipient sees the message. None will see the giver's name, and the gift goes in the recipient's gift box but not the wall.

Some of Facebook's gifts, as displayed in the website's gift shop.

Some of Facebook's gifts, as displayed in the website's gift shop.

Facebook users are given one free gift to give upon registering their account. Each additional gift given by a user costs US$1.00. The initial selection of gifts was Valentine's Day themed, and 50% of the net proceeds (after credit card processing fees were taken out, etc.) received through February 2007 were donated to the charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure. After the month of February, the proceeds were no longer donated. Soon after, Facebook began making one new gift available each day, most of which had a limited supply or were available for a limited time.

On 8 November 2008, Facebook changed the $1.00 per gift model to a micro-payment model of 100 points per $1.00, with the existing gifts costing 100 points. They planned to allow a wider variety of gifts in the future.

The built-in Gifts feature was removed on August 1, 2010, to allow Facebook to focus on more important website features. Existing gift-giving applications can be used as a replacement for the Gifts feature.

Lite

In August 2009, Facebook announced the rollout of a "lite" version of the site, optimized for users on slower or intermittent Internet connections. Facebook Lite offered fewer services, excluded most third-party applications and required less bandwidth. A beta version of the slimmed-down interface was released first to invited testers before a broader rollout across users in the United States, Canada, and India. It was announced on 20 April 2010 that support for the "lite" service had ended and that users would be redirected back to the normal, full content, Facebook website. The service was only operational for eight months.


Reception

According to comScore, Facebook is the leading social networking site based on monthly unique visitors, having overtaken main competitor MySpace in April 2008. ComScore reports that Facebook attracted 130 million unique visitors in May 2010, an increase of 8.6 million people. According to Alexa, the website's ranking among all websites increased from 60th to 7th in worldwide traffic, from September 2006 to September 2007, and is currently 2nd. Quantcast ranks the website 2nd in the U.S. in traffic, and Compete.com ranks it 2nd in the U.S. The website is the most popular for uploading photos, with 50 billion uploaded cumulatively. In 2010, Sophos's "Security Threat Report 2010" polled over 500 firms, 60% of which responded that they believed that Facebook was the social network that posed the biggest threat to security, well ahead of MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Facebook is the most popular social networking site in several English-speaking countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In regional Internet markets, Facebook penetration is highest in North America (69 percent), followed by Middle East-Africa (67 percent), Latin America (58 percent), Europe (57 percent), and Asia-Pacific (17 percent).

The website has won awards such as placement into the "Top 100 Classic Websites" by PC Magazine in 2007, and winning the "People's Voice Award" from the Webby Awards in 2008. In a 2006 study conducted by Student Monitor, a New Jersey-based company specializing in research concerning the college student market, Facebook was named the second most popular thing among undergraduates, tied with beer and only ranked lower than the iPod.

On March 2010, Judge Richard Seeborg issued an order approving the class settlement in Lane v. Facebook, Inc., the class action lawsuit arising out of Facebook's Beacon program.

In 2010, Facebook won the Crunchie “Best Overall Startup Or Product” the third year in a row and was recognized as one of the "Hottest Silicon Valley Companies" by Lead411. However, in a July 2010 survey performed by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Facebook received a score of 64 out of 100, placing it in the bottom 5% of all private sector companies in terms of customer satisfaction, alongside industries such as the IRS e-file system, airlines, and cable companies. Reasons for why Facebook scored so poorly include privacy problems, frequent changes to the website's interface, the results returned by the News Feed, and spam.

In December 2008, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory ruled that Facebook is a valid protocol to serve court notices to defendants. It is believed to be the world's first legal judgement that defines a summons posted on Facebook as legally binding. In March 2009, the New Zealand High Court associate justice David Glendall allowed for the serving of legal papers on Craig Axe by the company Axe Market Garden via Facebook. Employers (such as Virgin Atlantic Airways) have also used Facebook as a means to keep tabs on their employees and have even been known to fire them over posts they have made.

By 2005, the use of Facebook had already become so ubiquitous that the generic verb "facebooking" had come into use to describe the process of browsing others' profiles or updating one's own. In 2008, Collins English Dictionary declared "Facebook" as their new Word of the Year. In December 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared their word of the year to be the verb "unfriend", defined as "To remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook. As in, 'I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.'"

As of April 2010, according to The New York Times, countries with most Facebook users are the United States, the United Kingdom and Indonesia. Indonesia has become the country with the second largest number of Facebook users, after the United States, with 24 million users, or 10% of Indonesia's population. Also in early 2010, Openbook was established, an avowed parody website (and privacy advocacy website) that enables text-based searches of those Wall posts that are available to "Everyone", i.e. to everyone on the Internet.

Writers for The Wall Street Journal found in 2010 that Facebook apps were transmitting identifying information to "dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies". The apps used an HTTP referrer which exposed the user's identity and sometimes their friends'. Facebook said, "We have taken immediate action to disable all applications that violate our terms".


Criticism of Facebook

Facebook's growth as an Internet social networking site has met criticism on a range of issues, including online privacy, child safety, and the inability to terminate accounts without first manually deleting the content. In 2008, many companies removed their advertising from the site because it was being displayed on the pages of controversial individuals and groups. The content of user pages, groups, and forums has been criticized for promoting topics such as pro-anorexia and religious blasphemy. There have been several issues with censorship, both on and off the site.

The changes made by Facebook have been criticized, in particular the new format launched in 2008 and the changes in Facebook's Terms of Use, which removed the clause detailing automatic expiry of deleted content.

Facebook has also been sued several times.

Privacy concerns

Privacy policy

Facebook's privacy policy has grown significantly over time.

Issues during 2007

In August 2007, the code used to dynamically generate Facebook's home and search page as visitors browse the site was accidentally made public, according to leading internet news sites. A configuration problem on a Facebook server caused the PHP code to be displayed instead of the web page the code should have created, raising concerns about how secure private data on the site was. A visitor to the site copied, published and later removed the code from his web forum, claiming he had been served legal notice by Facebook. Facebook's response was quoted by the site that broke the story:

A small fraction of the code that displays Facebook web pages was exposed to a small number of users due to a single misconfigured web server that was fixed immediately. It was not a security breach and did not compromise user data in any way. Because the code that was released powers only Facebook user interface, it offers no useful insight into the inner workings of Facebook. The reprinting of this code violates several laws and we ask that people not distribute it further.

In November 2007, Facebook launched Beacon, a system (discontinued in September 2009) where third-party websites could include a script by Facebook on their sites, and use it to send information about the actions of Facebook users on their site to Facebook, prompting serious privacy concerns. Information such as purchases made and games played were published in the user's news feed. An informative notice about this action appeared on the third party site and gave the user the opportunity to cancel it, and the user could also cancel it on Facebook. Originally if no action was taken, the information was automatically published. On November 29 this was changed to require confirmation from the user before publishing each story gathered by Beacon.

On Dec. 1, 2007 Facebook's credibility in regard to the Beacon program was further tested when it was reported that the New York Times "essentially accuses" Mark Zuckerberg of lying to the paper and leaving Coca-Cola, which is reversing course on the program, a similar impression. A security engineer at CA, Inc. also claimed in a Nov. 29, 2007 blog post that Facebook collected data from affiliate sites even when the consumer opted out and even when not logged into the Facebook site. On Nov. 30, 2007, the CA security blog posted a Facebook clarification statement addressing the use of data collected in the Beacon program:

When a Facebook user takes a Beacon-enabled action on a participating site, information is sent to Facebook in order for Facebook to operate Beacon technologically. If a Facebook user clicks ‘No, thanks’ on the partner site notification, Facebook does not use the data and deletes it from its servers. Separately, before Facebook can determine whether the user is logged in, some data may be transferred from the participating site to Facebook. In those cases, Facebook does not associate the information with any individual user account, and deletes the data as well.

The Beacon service ended in September 2009 along with the settlement of a class-action lawsuit resulting from the service.

News Feed and Mini-Feed

On September 5, 2006, Facebook introduced two new features called "News Feed" and "Mini-Feed". The first of the new features, News Feed, appears on every Facebook member's home page, displaying recent Facebook activities of the member's friends. The second feature, Mini-Feed, keeps a log of similar events on each member's profile page. Members can manually delete items from their Mini-Feeds if they wish to do so, and through privacy settings can control what is actually published in their respective Mini-Feeds.

Some Facebook members still feel that the ability to opt out of the entire News Feed and Mini-Feed system is necessary, as evidenced by a statement from the Students Against Facebook News Feed group, which peaked at over 740,000 members in 2006. Reacting to users' concerns, Facebook developed new privacy features to give users some control over information about them that was broadcast by the News Feed. According to subsequent news articles, members have widely regarded the additional privacy options as an acceptable compromise.

In December 2009, Facebook removed the privacy controls for the News Feed and Mini Feed. This change made it impossible for users to control what activities are published on their walls (and consequently the public news feed). Since users can post anything they want, this allowed people to post things that could target certain groups of people or abuse other users through other means.

In May 2010, Facebook added privacy controls and streamlined its privacy settings, giving users more ways to manage status updates and other information that is broadcast to the public News Feed. Among the new privacy settings is the ability to control who sees each new status update a user posts: Everyone, Friends of Friends, or Friends Only. Users can now hide each status update from specific people as well.

Complaint from CIPPIC

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), per Director Phillipa Lawson, filed a 35-page complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner against Facebook on May 31, 2008, based on 22 breaches of the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). University of Ottawa law students Lisa Feinberg, Harley Finkelstein, and Jordan Eric Plener, initiated the "minefield of privacy invasion" suit. Facebook's Chris Kelly contradicted the claims, saying that: "We've reviewed the complaint and found it has serious factual errors — most notably its neglect of the fact that almost all Facebook data is willingly shared by users." Assistant Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report of her findings on July 16, 2009. In it, she found that several of CIPPIC's complaints were well-founded. Facebook agreed to comply with some, but not all, of her recommendations. Specifically, the Assistant Commissioner found that Facebook did not do enough to ensure users granted meaningful consent for the disclosure of personal information to third parties and did not place adequate safeguards to ensure unauthorized access by third party developers to personal information.

Data mining

There have been some concerns expressed regarding the use of Facebook as a means of surveillance and data mining. The Facebook privacy policy once stated, "We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile." However, the policy was later updated and now states: "We may use information about you that we collect from other Facebook users to supplement your profile (such as when you are tagged in a photo or mentioned in a status update). In such cases we generally give you the ability to remove the content (such as allowing you to remove a photo tag of you) or limit its visibility on your profile." The terminology regarding the use of collecting information from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, and instant messaging services, has been removed.

The possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook has been a concern, as evidenced by the fact that two MIT students were able to download, using an automated script, over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT, NYU, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard) as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005. Since then, Facebook has bolstered security protection for users, responding: "We’ve built numerous defenses to combat phishing and malware, including complex automated systems that work behind the scenes to detect and flag Facebook accounts that are likely to be compromised (based on anomalous activity like lots of messages sent in a short period of time, or messages with links that are known to be bad)."

A second clause that was criticism from some users who had the right to sell users' data to private companies, stating "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship." This concern was addressed by spokesman Chris Hughes who said "Simply put, we have never provided our users' information to third party companies, nor do we intend to." Facebook eventually removed this clause from its privacy policy.

Previously, third party applications had access to almost all user information. Facebook's privacy policy previously stated: "Facebook does not screen or approve Platform Developers and cannot control how such Platform Developers use any personal information." However, that language has since been removed. Regarding use of user data by third party applications, the ‘Pre-Approved Third-Party Websites and Applications’ section of the Facebook privacy policy now states:

In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook). Similarly, when one of your friends visits a pre-approved website or application, it will receive General Information about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well (if you also have an account with that website). In these cases we require these websites and applications to go through an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy…You can disable instant personalization on all pre-approved websites and applications using your Applications and Websites privacy setting. You can also block a particular pre-approved website or application by clicking "No Thanks" in the blue bar when you visit that application or website. In addition, if you log out of Facebook before visiting a pre-approved application or website, it will not be able to access your information.

In the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has encouraged employers to allow their staff to access Facebook and other social networking sites from work, provided they proceed with caution.

In September 2007, Facebook drew a fresh round of criticism after it began allowing non-members to search for users, with the intent of opening limited "public profiles" up to search engines such as Google in the following months. Facebook's privacy settings, however, allow users to block their profiles from search engines.

Concerns were also raised on the BBC's Watchdog programme in October 2007 when Facebook was shown to be an easy way in which to collect an individual's personal information in order to facilitate identity theft. However, there is barely any personal information presented to non-friends - if users leave the privacy controls on their default settings, the only personal information visible to a non-friend is the user's name, gender, profile picture, networks, and user name.

In addition, a New York Times article in February 2008 pointed out that Facebook does not actually provide a mechanism for users to close their accounts, and thus raised the concern that private user data would remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers. However, Facebook now gives users the options to deactivate or delete their accounts, according to the Facebook Privacy Policy. “When you deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (connections, photos, etc.) in case you later decide to reactivate your account.” The policy further states: “When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook.”

A third party site, USocial, was involved in a controversy surrounding the sale of fans and friends. USocial received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook and has stopped selling friends.

Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts

Facebook had allowed users to deactivate their accounts but not actually remove account content from its servers. A Facebook representative explained to a student from the University of British Columbia that users had to clear their own accounts by manually deleting all of the content including wall posts, friends, and groups. A New York Times article noted the issue, and also raised a concern that emails and other private user data remain indefinitely on Facebook's servers. Facebook subsequently began allowing users to permanently delete their accounts. Facebook’s Privacy Policy now states: “When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook.”

Memorials

A notable ancillary effect of social networking websites, particularly Facebook, is the ability for participants to mourn publicly for a deceased individual. On Facebook, students often leave messages of sadness, grief, or hope on the individual's page, transforming it into a sort of public book of condolences. This particular phenomenon has been documented at a number of schools. Previously, Facebook had stated that its official policy on the matter was to remove the profile of the deceased one month after he or she has died, preventing the profile from being used for communal mourning, citing privacy concerns. Due to user response, Facebook amended its policy. Its new policy is to place deceased members' profiles in a "memorialization state." Facebook’s Privacy Policy regarding memorialization says, “If we are notified that a user is deceased, we may memorialize the user’s account. In such cases we restrict profile access to confirmed friends, and allow friends and family to write on the user’s Wall in remembrance. We may close an account if we receive a formal request from the user’s next of kin or other proper legal request to do so.”

Such memorial groups have also raised legal issues. Notably, on January 1, 2008, one such memorial group posted the identity of murdered Toronto teenager Stefanie Rengel, whose family had not yet given the Toronto Police Service their consent to release her name to the media, and the identities of her accused killers, in defiance of Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act which prohibits publishing the names of under-age criminals. While police and Facebook staff attempted to comply with the privacy regulations by deleting such posts, they noted that it was difficult to effectively police the individual users who repeatedly republished the deleted information.

Customization and security

Facebook is often compared to MySpace but one significant difference between the two sites is the level of customization. MySpace allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and CSS while Facebook allows only plain text. However, a number of users have tweaked their profiles by using "hacks." On February 24, 2006, a pair of users exploited a cross-site scripting (XSS) hole on the profile page and created a fast-spreading worm, loading a custom CSS file on infected profiles that made them look like MySpace profiles.

On April 19, 2006, a user was able to embed an iframe into his profile and load a custom off-site page featuring a streaming video and a flash game from Drawball. He has since been banned from Facebook.

On March 26, 2006, a user was able to embed JavaScript in the "Hometown" field of his profile which imported his custom CSS.

In each case, Facebook quickly patched the holes, typically within hours of their discovery. However, in July 2007, Adrienne Felt, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, discovered a cross-site scripting (XSS) hole in the Facebook Platform that could inject JavaScript into profiles. She used the hole to import custom CSS and demonstrate how the platform could be used to violate privacy rules or create a worm. This hole took Facebook two and a half weeks to fix.

Technical

Disabling of user accounts

There have been complaints of user accounts easily being mistakenly disabled for violating Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The disabling is often automated and can be easily triggered by a user filing a report on an account, regardless of whether or not the report is legitimate. Once Facebook disables an account, whether it does so for unconfirmed reasons or a suspicion that something may be awry, it is impossible to reinstate the account, partly due to lack of in-person support and partly because any attempt to do so sends the account holder into a closed loop.

Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities is often misleading. For example, it states that joining a school network is not a requirement, even though users are often disabled for not joining a school network. Facebook has disabled user accounts for having names deemed to be fake despite being real. Once an account is disabled, it can no longer be logged into and all public traces of it disappear.

There have also been instances of user accounts being memorialized, even though the person listed on the profile was not deceased.

Lack of customer support

Facebook lacks live support, making it difficult to resolve issues that require the services of an administrator or are not covered in the faqs, such as the enabling of a disabled account. The automated emailing system used when filling out a support form often refers users back to the help center or to pages that are outdated and cannot be accessed, leaving users at a dead end with no further support available.

Downtime and outages

Facebook has had a number of outages and downtime large enough to draw some media attention. A 2007 outage resulted in a security hole that enabled some users to read other users' personal mail. In 2008, the site was inaccessible for about a day, from many locations in many countries. In spite of these occurrences, a report issued by Pingdom found that Facebook had less downtime in 2008 than most social networking websites. On September 16, 2009, Facebook started having major problems with loading when people signed in. On September 18, 2009, Facebook went down for the second time in 2009, the first time being when a group of hackers were deliberately trying to drown out a political speaker who had social networking problems from continuously speaking against the Iranian election results. In October 2009, an unspecified number of Facebook users were unable to access their accounts for over three weeks. On September 23, 2010, nobody within the UK, US, and Latin America could log in to Facebook. Facebook quoted a DNS failure.

Upgrades

September 2008

In September 2008, Facebook permanently moved its users to what they termed the "New Facebook" or Facebook 3.0. This version contained several different features and a complete layout redesign. Between July and September, users had been given the option to use the new Facebook in place of the original design, or to return to the old design.

Facebook's decision to migrate their users was met with some controversy in their community. Several groups were started opposing the decision, some with over a million users.

October 2009

In October 2009, Facebook redesigned the news feed so that the user could view all types of things that their friends were involved with. In a statement, they said,

Stories your applications generate can show up in both views. The best way for your stories to appear in the News Feed filter is to create stories that are highly engaging, as high quality, interesting stories are most likely to garner likes and comments by the user's friends.

This redesign was explained as:

News Feed will focus on popular content, determined by an algorithm based on interest in that story, including the number of times an item is liked or commented on. Live Feed will display all recent stories from a large number of a user's friends.

Immediately, the redesign was met with criticism with users, many who did not like the amount of information that was coming at them. This was also compounded by the fact that people couldn't select what they saw. Immediately, groups formed, one getting over 1,600,000 within the first two weeks of the update.

November/December 2009

In November 2009, Facebook issued a proposed new privacy policy, and adopted it unaltered in December 2009. They combined this with a rollout of new privacy settings. This new policy declared certain information, including "lists of friends", to be "publicly available", with no privacy settings; it was previously possible to keep access to this information restricted. Due to this change, the users who had set their "list of friends" as private were forced to make it public without even being informed, and the option to make it private again was removed. This was protested by many people and privacy organizations such as the EFF.

The change was described by Gawker as Facebook's Great Betrayal, forcing user profile photos and friends lists to be visible in users' public listing, even for users who had explicitly chosen to hide this information previously, and making photos and personal information public unless users were proactive about limiting access. For example, a user whose "Family and Relationships" information was set to be viewable by "Friends Only" would default to being viewable by "Everyone" (publicly viewable). That is, information such as the gender of partner you are interested in, relationship status, and family relations became viewable to those even without a Facebook account. Facebook was heavily criticized for both reducing its users' privacy and pushing users to remove privacy protections. Groups criticizing the changes include the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, had hundreds of personal photos and his events calendar exposed in the transition. Facebook has since re-included an option to hide friends lists from being viewable; however, this preference is no longer listed with other privacy settings, and the former ability to hide the friends list from selected people among one's own friends is no longer possible. Journalist Dan Gillmor deleted his Facebook account over the changes, stating he "can’t entirely trust Facebook" and Heidi Moore at Slate's Big Money temporarily deactivated her account as a "conscientious objection". Other journalists have been similarly disappointed and outraged by the changes. Defending the changes, founder Mark Zuckerberg said "we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it". The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada launched another investigation into Facebook's privacy policies after complaints following the change.

May 2010

In late May 2010, the Norwegian Consumer Council filed a complaint to the Data Inspectorate on Facebook and Zynga's breaches of the Data Protection Act. The Consumer Council is previously known for initiating the case against Apple's iTunes which eventually led to the dismantling of Apple's DRM practices.

Censorship controversies

Search function

Facebook's search function has been accused of preventing users from searching for certain terms. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has written about Facebook's possible censorship of "Ron Paul" as a search term. MoveOn.org's Facebook group for organizing protests against privacy violations could for a time not be found by searching. The very word privacy was also restricted. Facebook claimed that the problem was a bug.

Breastfeeding photos

Facebook has been criticized for removing photos uploaded by mothers of themselves breastfeeding their babies and also canceling their Facebook accounts. Although photos that show an exposed breast violate Facebook's decency code, even when the baby covered the nipple, Facebook took several days to respond to calls to deactivate a paid advertisement for a dating service that used a photo of a topless model.

The breastfeeding photos controversy continued following public protests and the growth in the online membership in the Facebook group titled "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)."

Censorship of editorial content

On September 6, 2009, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an editorial article entitled, "Obama speaks to children; right wing shows its crazy side". By September 7, attempts to link the article to Facebook were met with a block indicating that the article was reported by users as abusive.

On February 4, 2010, a number of Facebook groups against the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) were removed without any reason given. The DAB is one of the largest pro-Beijing political parties in Hong Kong. The affected groups have since been restored.

On May 21, 2010, Facebook disabled the account of Sulphur Springs, Texas radio station KNOI after it posted editorial comments critical of Facebook's privacy policies and shared links to articles about Leo Laporte's decision to delete his own Facebook account.

Inappropriate content controversies

Identity theft

One can easily create an account and impersonate another person, often for malicious or mischievous reasons and to harass others. This criticism is not unique to Facebook, since any site using user accounts has the potential for users to create false accounts.

Defamation

On July 24, 2008, the High Court in London ordered British freelance cameraman Grant Raphael to pay ?22,000 (then about US$43,700) for breach of privacy and libel. Raphael had posted a fake Facebook page purporting to be that of a former schoolfriend and business colleague, Mathew Firsht, with whom Raphael had fallen out in 2000. The fake page claimed that Firsht was homosexual and untrustworthy. The case is believed to be the first successful invasion of privacy and defamation verdict against someone over an entry on a social networking site.

Anorexia and bulimia

Facebook has received criticism from users and from people outside the Facebook community about hosting pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia information. British eating disorder charity B-EAT called on all social networking sites to curb "pro-ana" (anorexia) and "pro-mia" (bulimia) pages and groups, naming MySpace and Facebook specifically.

Advertiser concerns

On August 3, 2007, British companies including First Direct, Vodafone, Virgin Media, The Automobile Association, Halifax and the Prudential removed their advertisements from Facebook. A Virgin Media spokeswoman said "We want to advertise on social networks but we have to protect our brand". The companies found that their services were being advertised on pages of the British National Party, a far-right political party in the UK. New Media Age magazine was first to alert the companies that their ads were coming up on BNP's Facebook page. The AA also pulled its advertising from YouTube when a BBC documentary showed that videos of school children fighting were available on that site.

Holocaust denial

In 2009, Facebook received criticism for including Holocaust denial groups. Barry Schnitt, a spokesman for Facebook, said, "We want Facebook to be a place where ideas, even controversial ideas, can be discussed." While Facebook's terms of use include the warning that users may "be banned if they post 'any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable,'" Schnitt said, "We can't guarantee that there isn't any content that violates our policies."

Cyberbullying, stalking and murder

Many critics, including Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, have criticized Facebook as a possible tool for cyberbullying, with the possibilities of anonymous profiles and the creation of groups allowing bullies to target individuals online. In 2009, an Oceanside teenager sued Facebook, as well as four of her former classmates for $3 million after the individuals created a password-protected Facebook group that was allegedly "calculated to hold the plaintiff up to public hatred, ridicule and disgrace". A Facebook spokesperson stated "we see no merit to this suit and we will fight it vigorously." On August 21, 2009, Keeley Houghton, 18, of Malvern, Worcestershire, was sentenced to three months in a young offenders' institution after being found guilty of bullying one of her classmates on Facebook, making her the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site.

Facebook's privacy settings, combined with the sheer volume of personal information individuals put on their profiles, have also led to claims that Facebook could encourage cyberstalking.

One particular aspect of cyberstalking that is of concern to insurance companies is the use of Facebook as a research tool for burglars. A report published in 2009 by Legal & General called "The Digital Criminal" revealed that 38% of social network users post status updates with details of their holiday plans, which can be an "open invitation to burglars" as many users also posted their home address on their profile. In August 2009, a burglar in Hove accessed his victim's Facebook profile to taunt her over the theft of her laptop by posting comments on her profile. A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: "Being burgled is traumatic enough for any family but for the culprit to apparently use their stolen possessions to publicly gloat over the crime is a sinister twist."

In November 2009, Facebook was accused of promoting Gingerism after a 'Kick a Ginger' group, which was inspired by the South Park episode Ginger Kids and aimed to establish a "National Kick a Ginger Day" on November 20, received almost 5,000 members. A 14-year-old boy from Courtenay, British Columbia who ran the Facebook group was subjected to an investigation from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for possible hate crimes.

There have been a number of cases where a person has been murdered by someone they have met on Facebook.

Pro-mafia groups' case

In Italy, the discovery of pro-mafia groups caused an alert in the country and brought the government, after a short debate, to rapidly issue a law which will force ISPs to deny access to entire sites in case of refused removal of illegal contents; the removal can be requested by a prosecutor in any case in which there is a suspicion that criminal speech (a defence of or incitement to crime) is published on a website. The amendment was passed by the Italian Senate and now needs to be passed unchanged by the Chamber of Deputies to become immediately effective.

Facebook and other websites, Google included, criticized the amendment emphasizing the eventual effects on the freedom of speech of those users who do not violate any law.

Trolling

On March 31, 2010, the Today Show ran a segment detailing the deaths of three separate adolescent girls and trolls’ subsequent reactions to their deaths. Shortly after the suicide of high school student Alexis Pilkington, anonymous posters began trolling for reactions across various message boards, referring to Pilkington as a “suicidal slut,” and posting graphic images on her Facebook memorial page. The segment also included an expose of a 2006 accident, in which an eighteen-year old student out for a drive fatally crashed her father’s car into a highway pylon; trolls emailed her grieving family the leaked pictures of her mutilated corpse.

Psychological effects

Jealousy

Facebook was criticized for making people jealous and unhappy due to the constant exposure to positive yet unrepresentative highlights of their peers.

Stress

A research performed by psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University indicated Facebook adds stress to users' lives. Causes of stress included fear of missing important social information, fear of offending contacts, discomfort or guilt from rejecting user requests or deleting unwanted contacts, the pressure to be entertaining, and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends.

Third-party responses to Facebook

Government censorship


Censorship of Facebook

Censorship of Facebook has occurred because of the open nature of Facebook; several countries have banned access to it including Syria, China, Iran, and Vietnam.

China

In Mainland China, Facebook was blocked following the July 2009 Urumqi riots because Xinjiang independence activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network. Some Chinese users also believed that Facebook would not succeed in China after Google China's problems. The popular Renren social network (formerly Xiaonei) has many features similar to Facebook, and complies with PRC Government regulations regarding content filtering.

Egypt

Facebook was blocked for a few days in Egypt during the 2011 Egyptian protests.

Mauritius

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr Navin Ramgoolam ordered Internet Service Providers(ISPs) of the country to ban Facebook on immediate effect, on the 8th November 2007. The Prime Minister did not approve that someone impersonated him on Facebook. Access to Facebook was restored on the next day.

Morocco

On February 5, 2008, Fouad Mourtada, a citizen of Morocco, was arrested for the alleged creation of a faked Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco.

Iran

During the 2009 election in Iran, the website was banned because of fears that opposition movements were being organized on the website.

Syria

The Syrian government explained their ban by claiming the website promoted attacks on authorities. The government also feared Israeli infiltration of Syrian social networks on Facebook. Facebook was also used by Syrian citizens to criticize the government of Syria, and public criticism of the Syrian government is punishable by imprisonment. But most of the people reach to facebook by internetebak.com which is a gate to banned websites. Syria claims that they do not want to have a prominent website created by a jewish person to have presence in the country.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, an unauthenticated document supposedly issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security dating August 27, 2009 instructing ISPs to block Facebook sparked shutdown fears. Access to Facebook became intermittent in mid-November and major ISPs were swamped by complaints. Some technicians confirmed being ordered by the government to block access to Facebook while government officials denied it.


Organizations blocking access

Ontario government employees, Federal public servants, MPPs, and cabinet ministers were blocked from access to Facebook on government computers in May 2007. When the employees tried to access Facebook, a warning message "The Internet website that you have requested has been deemed unacceptable for use for government business purposes". This warning also appears when employees try to access YouTube, MySpace, gambling or pornographic websites. However, innovative employees have found ways around such protocols, and many claim to use the site for political or work-related purposes.

A number of local governments including those in the UK and Finland imposed restrictions on the use of Facebook in the workplace due to the technical strain incurred. Other government-related agencies, such as the US Marine Corps have imposed similar restrictions.

A number of hospitals in Finland have also restricted Facebook use citing privacy concerns.

Employees of Broward County, Florida have been blocked from accessing Facebook and most social networking and blog sites since 2009.

Schools blocking access

The University of New Mexico (UNM) in October 2005 blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, citing unsolicited e-mails and a similar site called UNM Facebook. After a UNM user signed into Facebook from off campus, a message from Facebook said, "We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access." UNM, in a message to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network, wrote, "This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM's Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business." However, after Facebook created an encrypted login and displayed a precautionary message not to use university passwords for access, UNM unblocked access the following spring semester.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on June 22, 2006, that Kent State University's athletic director had planned to ban the use of Facebook by athletes and gave them until August 1 to delete their accounts. On July 5, 2006, the Daily Kent Stater reported that the director reversed the decision after reviewing the privacy settings of Facebook.

Closed social networks

Several web sites concerned with social networking have criticized the lack of information that users get when they share data.

Advanced users can limit the amount of information anyone can access in their profiles, but Facebook promotes the sharing of personal information for marketing purposes, leading to the promotion of the service using personal data from users who are not fully aware of this. Furthermore, Facebook exposes personal data, without supporting open standards for data interchange. According to several communities and authors closed social networking, on the other hand, promotes data retrieval from other people while not exposing one's personal information.

Openbook was established in early 2010 both as a parody of Facebook and a critique of its changing privacy management protocols.

Class action lawsuit

On November 17, 2009, Rebecca Swift, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, filed a class action lawsuit against Zynga Game Network Inc. and Facebook, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for violation of the Unfair competition law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and for unjust enrichment.

Student-related issues

Student privacy concerns

Students who post illegal or otherwise inappropriate material have faced disciplinary action from their universities, including expulsion. While others posting libelous content relating to faculty have also faced disciplinary action.

Integration of high school users

Following the February 27, 2006, integration of the high school and college levels, some college users began creating groups critical of the decision. Users from the two branches could fully interact only if they were friends and some separation did remain. The site also released the Limited Profile privacy settings and advised students on how to hide pictures and other features from others. However, some college users felt that the site's former exclusivity had been key to their experience. Some expressed concerns about the ability of unknown persons to create accounts on the high school version (since university addresses are not required) and use them to access the college version; by default, strangers can message and view users' friends through a simple global search. Some made predictions that the site would soon face issues with spammers, stalkers, or worse, and worried this would result in controversies similar to the bad publicity seen by MySpace.

Adding to the controversy around opening Facebook to younger students, four high school students at Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario were arrested in a Facebook-related protest on March 23, 2007. Earlier that week, five students had been suspended for posting criticisms about a vice-principal of their school. About a dozen friends of the suspendees had decided to protest in front of the school, but that handful soon grew to over 100 students protesting for free speech. Local law enforcement authorities were called, and a scuffle ensued, resulting in the arrest of four students. Users under eighteen years old have been banned from Facebook for not being in a high school group. This discourages homeschoolers from using Facebook. Facebook does not actively enforce the age limit, resulting in children under the age of 13 using it. This has raised concerns in regard to the safety of children.

Effect on higher education

On January 23, 2006, The Chronicle of Higher Education continued an ongoing national debate on social networks with an opinion piece written by Michael Bugeja, director of the Journalism School at Iowa State University, entitled "Facing the Facebook". Bugeja, author of the Oxford University Press text Interpersonal Divide (2005), quoted representatives of the American Association of University Professors and colleagues in higher education to document the distraction of students using Facebook and other social networks during class and at other venues in the wireless campus. Bugeja followed up on January 26, 2007 in The Chronicle with an article titled "Distractions in the Wireless Classroom," quoting several educators across the country who were banning laptops in the classroom. Similarly, organisations such as the National Association for Campus Activities, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and others have hosted seminars and presentations to discuss ramifications of students' use of Facebook and other social networking systems.

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative has also released a brief pamphlet entitled "7 Things You Should Know About Facebook" aimed at higher education professionals that "describes what [Facebook] is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning".

The most recent research on Facebook in higher education shows that there are educational benefits to student Facebook use, including improving engagement which is related to student retention. Furthermore, using technologies such as Facebook to connect with others can help college students be less depressed and cope with feelings of loneliness and homesickness. According to a case study, students surveyed had on average lower grades if they used Facebook than students who did not use Facebook.

Litigation

ConnectU.com lawsuit

Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss, and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of the social networking website ConnectU, filed a lawsuit against Facebook in September 2004. The lawsuit alleged that Zuckerberg had broken an oral contract to build the social networking site, copied the idea, and used source code that they provided to Zuckerberg to create competing site Facebook. Facebook countersued in regards to Social Butterfly, a project put out by The Winklevoss Chang Group, an alleged partnership between ConnectU and i2hub. It named among the defendants ConnectU, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Divya Narendra, and Wayne Chang, founder of i2hub. The parties reached a settlement agreement in February, 2008, for $20 million in cash and 1,253,326 Facebook shares. On August 26, 2010, The New York Times reported that Facebook shares were trading at $76 per share in the secondary market, putting the total settlement value now at close to $120 million.

ConnectU filed another lawsuit against Facebook on March 11, 2008, attempting to rescind the settlement, claiming that Facebook, in settlement negotiations, had overstated the value of stock it was granting the ConnectU founders as part of the settlement. ConnectU argued that Facebook represented itself as being worth $15 billion at the time, due to the post-money valuation arising from Microsoft's purchase in 2007 of a 1.6% stake in Facebook for US $246 million. Facebook announced that valuation in a press release. However, Facebook subsequently performed an internal valuation that estimated a company value of $3.75 billion. ConnectU then fired the law firm, Quinn Emanuel, that had represented it in settlement discussions. Quinn Emanuel filed a $13 million lien against the settlement proceeds and ConnectU sued for malpractice. On August 25, 2010, an arbitration panel ruled that Quinn Emanuel had "earned its full contingency fee". It also found that Quinn Emanuel committed no malpractice. ConnectU's lawsuit against Facebook to quadruple its settlement remains ongoing.

In January 2010, it was reported that i2hub founder Wayne Chang and The i2hub Organization launched a lawsuit against ConnectU and its founders, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, seeking 50% of the settlement. The complaint states "Through this litigation, Chang asserts his ownership interest in The Winklevoss Chang Group and ConnectU, including the settlement proceeds." Lee Gesmer (of Gesmer Updegrove, LLP) posted the detailed 33-page complaint online.

Aaron Greenspan and houseSYSTEM

As the President of the Harvard College Student Entrepreneurship Council (a now-defunct student group) and the CEO of Think Computer Corporation, Aaron Greenspan created a web portal as a Harvard undergraduate called houseSYSTEM that launched on August 1, 2003. Designed to centralize student life in a more user-friendly manner than Harvard's official student portal, my.harvard, houseSYSTEM had a variety of features, including an event calendar with digital RSVP, a photo album, user-uploadable "posters," a teaching feedback system called CriticalMass, an on-line trading post called Student Exchange, and as of September 19, 2003, a "Universal Face Book," which was also referred to at times as "The Facebook." Greenspan began communicating with fellow classmate Mark Zuckerberg via e-mail shortly after launching the houseSYSTEM Facebook in September after reading a profile of Zuckerberg in The Harvard Crimson's news magazine. They met in person in early January, 2004, at which point Zuckerberg, as well as future Facebook, Inc. co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes were already houseSYSTEM members. (Cameron Winklevoss and Victor Gao of the ConnectU team were also houseSYSTEM members). Though Greenspan and Zuckerberg decided to work on their respective projects independently, they frequently discussed technological aspects of houseSYSTEM related to the Facebook, as well as Zuckerberg's unspecified latest project, about which he was secretive, using AOL Instant Messenger. Throughout the spring semester of 2004, Greenspan and Zuckerberg were both enrolled in CS91r (also called Applied Math 91r), a ten-person computer science seminar that focused on using the PHP programming language with voice recognition technology.

On January 11, 2004, a few days after meeting Greenspan and concurrent with using the Universal Face Book on houseSYSTEM, Zuckerberg registered the domain name "thefacebook.com" independently. On February 4, 2004, when thefacebook.com launched, Greenspan recognized aspects of his own work in the site, and later came to believe that Zuckerberg was copying his work one feature at a time—a claim that Zuckerberg denied. Many of the features Greenspan created for houseSYSTEM, such as the digital event posters, electronic RSVPs, organizational pages, photo album, and marketplace, did eventually appear on thefacebook.com under similar names. Zuckerberg was aware of these features, eventually telling Greenspan at one point, "your facenet thing is hot." Social networking functionality was added to houseSYSTEM in March, 2004, and the name "FaceNet" replaced the "Universal Face Book." Regarding Greenspan's allegations, Zuckerberg was described in The New York Times as "saying through a spokeswoman that he was not sure how to respond."

In 2008, when Greenspan published a book entitled Authoritas: One Student's Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era describing his side of the story of Facebook's birth as well as events leading up to it (including aggressive actions on behalf of the Harvard University administration), he was prohibited from advertising the book using Google AdWords because of the inclusion of the word "Facebook" in the book's subtitle, and the existence of Facebook, Inc.'s registered trademark on the term "Facebook." The trademark had come into existence two years before in 2006, partially as a defensive measure during a battle over the "facebook.com" domain name in the ConnectU lawsuit. Consequently, Greenspan's company filed a Petition to Cancel the "Facebook" trademark, which included claims of prior use, genericness, and fraud by Facebook, Inc. against the USPTO. Greenspan represented himself for the majority of the proceedings, and the USPTO TTAB found his claims to be adequate. Facebook, Inc. agreed to a formal settlement with Greenspan in late May, 2009 and issued a press release, but the terms were not disclosed.

Greenspan is incorrectly referred to repeatedly as "Aaron Grossman" in Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires. Greenspan declined to co-operate with Mezrich on the book due to Mezrich's reputation for character distortion and consequently was not included in the resulting screenplay for The Social Network, even though Mezrich cited Authoritas as a source.

Since then, Greenspan has launched FaceCash, a mobile payment system that makes use of a person's face as a security token. He was written a number of articles critical of Facebook on The Huffington Post.

Paul Ceglia

On June 30, 2010, Paul Ceglia, the owner of a wood pellet fuel company in Allegany County, New York, filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, claiming 84% ownership of Facebook as well as additional monetary damages. According to Ceglia, he and Zuckerberg signed a contract on April 28, 2003, that for an initial fee of $1,000, entitles Ceglia to 50% of the website's revenue, as well as additional 1% interest per each day after January 1, 2004, until website completion. Zuckerberg was developing other projects at the time, among which was Facemash, the predecessor or Facebook, but did not register the domain name thefacebook.com until January 1, 2004. Facebook management has dismissed the lawsuit as "completely frivolous". Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt issued a statement indicating that the counsel for Ceglia had unsuccessfully attempted to seek an out-of-court settlement. In an interview to ABC World News, Zuckerberg stated he is confident of never signing such an agreement. At the time, Zuckerberg worked for Ceglia as a code developer on a project named "StreetFax". Judge Thomas Brown of Allegany Court has issued a restraining order on all financial transfers concerning ownership of Facebook until further notice; in response, Facebook management has requested for the order to be canceled and for the case to be removed to federal court. According to Facebook, the order would not affect their business but lacks legal basis.

Terms of Use controversy

While Facebook originally made changes to its terms of use or, terms of service, on February 4, 2009, the changes went unnoticed until Chris Walters, a blogger for the consumer-oriented blog, The Consumerist, noticed the change on February 15, 2009. Walters complained the change gave Facebook the right to "Do anything they want with your content. Forever." The section under the most controversy is the "User Content Posted on the Site" clause. Before the changes, the clause read:

"You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content."

The "license granted" refers to the license that Facebook has to your "name, likeness, and image" to use in promotions and external advertising. The new terms of use deleted the phrase that states the license would "automatically expire" if a user chose to remove content. By omitting this line, Facebook license extends to adopt users' content perpetually and irrevocably years after the content has been deleted.

Many users of Facebook voiced opinions against the changes to the Facebook Terms of Use, leading to an Internet-wide debate over the ownership of content. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) prepared a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Many individuals were frustrated with the removal of the controversial clause. Facebook users, numbering more than 38,000, joined a user group against the changes, and a number of blogs and news sites have written about this issue.

After the change was brought to light in Walters's blog entry, in his blog on February 16, 2009, Mark Zuckerberg addressed the issues concerning the recently made changes to Facebook’s terms of use. Zuckerberg wrote “Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with.” In addition to this statement Zuckerberg explained the paradox created when people want to share their information (phone number, pictures, email address, etc.) with the public, but at the same time desire to remain in complete control of who has access to this info.

In order to calm criticism, Facebook returned to its original terms of use. However, on February 17, 2009, Zuckerberg wrote in his blog, that although Facebook reverted back to its original terms of use, it is in the process of developing new terms in order to address the paradox. Zuckerberg stated that these new terms will allow Facebook users to “share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand.” Zuckerberg invited users to join a group entitled “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” to give their input and help shape the new terms.

On February 26, 2009, Zuckerberg posted a blog, updating users on the progress of the new Terms of Use. He wrote, “We decided we needed to do things differently and so we're going to develop new policies that will govern our system from the ground up in an open and transparent way.” Zuckerberg introduces the two new additions to Facebook: the Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities Both additions allow users to vote on changes to the terms of use before they are officially released. Because “Facebook is still in the business of introducing new and therefore potentially disruptive technologies,” Zuckerberg explains, users need to adjust and familiarize themselves with the products before they can adequately show their support.

This new voting system was initially applauded as Facebook’s step to a more democratized social network system. However, the new terms were harshly criticized in a report by computer scientists from the University of Cambridge, who stated that the democratic process surrounding the new terms is disingenuous and significant problems remain in the new terms. Their report was endorsed by the Open Rights Group.

In December 2009, EPIC and a number of other US privacy organizations filed another complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding Facebook's Terms of Service. In January 2011 EPIC filed a subsequent complaint claiming that Facebook's new policy of sharing users' home address and mobile phone information with third-party developers were "misleading and fail[ed] to provide users clear and privacy protections," particularly for children under age 18 . Facebook temporarily suspended implementation of its policy in February 2011, but in March 2011 announced it was "actively considering" reinstating the 3rd party policy.

Interoperability and data portability

Facebook has been criticized for failing to offer users a feature to export their friends' information, such as contact information, for use with other services or software. The inability of users to export their social graph in an open standard format contributes to vendor lock-in and contravenes the principles of data portability. Automated collection of user information without Facebook's consent violates its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and third-party attempts to do so (e.g., Web scraping) have resulted in suspension of accounts, cease and desist letters, and litigation with one of the third parties, Power.com.

Facebook Connect has been criticized for its lack of interoperability with OpenID.

Better Business Bureau review

As of December 2010, the Better Business Bureau gave Facebook an "A" rating"

As of December 2010, the 36-month running count of complaints about Facebook logged with the Better Business Bureau is 1136, including 101 ("Making a full refund, as the consumer requested"), 868 ("Agreeing to perform according to their contract"), 1 ("Refuse [sic] to adjust, relying on terms of agreement"), 20 ("Unassigned"), 0 ("Unanswered") and 136 ("Refusing to make an adjustment").

Facebook reportedly claimed to the BBB that some customers had received warnings for violations when none were actually sent.

Security

Facebook's software has proven vulnerable to likejacking.

On July 28, 2010 the BBC reported that security consultant Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles to collect data of 100 million profiles. The data collected was not hidden by the user's privacy settings. Bowes then published the list online. This list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, their name and unique ID. Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook claimed it was already public information.

On July 28, 2010 a group of Turkish pranksters decided to abuse Facebook's translate application and posted a plan on how to do it online. Their actions changed the translation of such messages as “Your message could not be sent because the user is offline” to “Your message could not be sent because of your tiny penis”, however these misguided translations were reverted back and the translate application went offline for many languages, however it is unknown if this was due to the Turkish attack.

Environment

In 2010, Prineville, Oregon was chosen as the site for a new Facebook data center. However the center has been met with criticism from environmental groups such as Greenpeace because the power utility company contracted for the center, PacifiCorp, generates 70% of its electricity from coal. In September 2010, Facebook received a letter from Greenpeace containing half a million signatures asking the company to cut its ties to coal based electricity.


Political impact

Facebook's role in the American political process was demonstrated in January 2008, shortly before the New Hampshire primary, when Facebook teamed up with ABC and Saint Anselm College to allow users to give live feedback about the "back to back" January 5 Republican and Democratic debates. Charles Gibson moderated both debates, held at the Dana Center for the Humanities at Saint Anselm College. Facebook users took part in debate groups organized around specific topics, register to vote, and message questions.

The stage at the Facebook – Saint Anselm College debates in 2008.

The stage at the Facebook – Saint Anselm College debates in 2008.

Over 1,000,000 people installed the Facebook application 'US politics' in order to take part, and the application measured users' responses to specific comments made by the debating candidates. This debate showed the broader community what many young students had already experienced: Facebook was an extremely popular and powerful new way to interact and voice opinions. An article written by Michelle Sullivan of Uwire.com illustrates how the "facebook effect" has affected youth voting rates, support by youth of political candidates, and general involvement by the youth population in the 2008 election.

In February 2008, a Facebook group called "One Million Voices Against FARC" organized an event that saw hundreds of thousands of Colombians march in protest against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC (from the group's Spanish name). In August 2010, one of North Korea's official government websites, Uriminzokkiri, joined Facebook.

In 2010 an English director of public health, whose staff was researching Syphilis, linked and attributed a rise in Syphilis cases in areas of Britain to Facebook. The reports of this research were rebuked by Facebook as "ignoring the difference between correlation and causation."

In media

  • At age 102, Ivy Bean of Bradford, England joined Facebook in 2008, making her one of the oldest people ever on Facebook. An inspiration to other residents of the care home in which she lived, she quickly became more widely known and several fan pages were made in her honor. She visited Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah, in Downing Street early in 2010. Some time after creating her Facebook page, Bean also joined Twitter, when she passed the maximum number of friends allowed by Facebook. She became the oldest person to ever use the Twitter website. At the time of her death in July 2010, she had 4,962 friends on Facebook and more than 56,000 followers on Twitter. Her death was widely reported in the media and she received tributes from several notable media personalities.
  • "FriendFace", a December 2008 episode of the British sitcom, The IT Crowd, parodied Facebook and social networking sites, in general.
  • American author Ben Mezrich published a book in July 2009 about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook, titled The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.
  • In response to the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day controversy and the ban of the website in Pakistan, an Islamic version of the website was created, called MillatFacebook.
  • "You Have 0 Friends", an April 2010 episode of the American animated comedy series, South Park, parodied Facebook.
  • The Social Network, a drama film directed by David Fincher about the founding of Facebook, was released October 1, 2010. The film features an ensemble cast consisting of Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, and Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The film was written by Aaron Sorkin and adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 book. The film was distributed by Columbia Pictures. No staff members of Facebook, including Zuckerberg, were involved with the project. However, one of Facebook's co-founders, Eduardo Saverin, was a consultant for Mezrich's book. Mark Zuckerberg has said that The Social Network is inaccurate.
  • On February 22, 2011, an Egyptian baby was named "Facebook" to commemorate the vital role Facebook and other social media played in Egypt's revolution.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American computer scientist and software developer best known for creating the social networking site Facebook, of which he is CEO and president. It was co-founded as a private company in 2004 by Zuckerberg and classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while they were students at Harvard University. In 2010, Zuckerberg was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Personal life

Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, New York to Karen, a psychiatrist, and Edward, a dentist. Mark and three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Zuckerberg was raised Jewish, including having his bar mitzvah when he turned 13, although he has since described himself as an atheist.

At Ardsley High School he had excelled in the classics before in his junior year transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy, where Zuckerberg won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and Classical studies (on his college application, Zuckerberg listed as non-English languages he could read and write: French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek) and was captain of the fencing team. In college, he was known for reciting lines from epic poems such as The Iliad.

At a party put on by his fraternity during his sophomore year, Zuckerberg met Priscilla Chan, and they have dated continuously, except for a brief period, since 2003. In September 2010, Zuckerberg invited Chan, now a medical student, to move into his rented Palo Alto house. Zuckerberg studies Mandarin Chinese every day, and the couple visited China in December 2010. As of 2010, Facebook is blocked by that country's Internet firewall.

On Zuckerberg's Facebook page, he listed his personal interests as "openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism". Zuckerberg sees blue best because of red–green colorblindness; blue is also Facebook's dominant color.

Zuckerberg (right) with Robert Scoble in 2008.

Zuckerberg (right) with Robert Scoble in 2008.

Software developer

Early years

Zuckerberg began using computers and writing software as a child in middle school. His father taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the 1990s, and later hired software developer David Newman to tutor him privately. Newman calls him a "prodigy," adding that it was "tough to stay ahead of him." Zuckerberg also took a graduate course in the subject at Mercy College near his home while he was still in high school. He enjoyed developing computer programs, especially communication tools and games. In one such program, since his father's dental practice was operated from their home, he built a software program he called "ZuckNet," which allowed all the computers between the house and dental office to communicate by pinging each other. It is considered a "primitive" version of AOL's Instant Messenger, which came out the following year.

According to writer Jose Antonio Vargas, "some kids played computer games. Mark created them." Zuckerberg himself recalls this period: "I had a bunch of friends who were artists. They'd come over, draw stuff, and I'd build a game out of it." However, notes Vargas, Zuckerberg was not a typical "geek-klutz," as he later became captain of his prep school fencing team and earned a classics diploma. Napster founder Sean Parker, a close friend, notes that Zuckerberg was "really into Greek odysseys and all that stuff,” recalling how he once quoted lines from the Latin epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil, during a Facebook product conference.

During Zuckerberg's high school years, under the company name Intelligent Media Group, he built a music player called the Synapse Media Player that used artificial intelligence to learn the user's listening habits, which was posted to Slashdot and received a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine. Microsoft and AOL tried to purchase Synapse and recruit Zuckerberg, but he chose instead to enroll at Harvard College in September 2002.

Harvard years

By the time he began classes at Harvard, he had already achieved a "reputation as a programming prodigy," notes Vargas. He studied psychology and computer science and belonged to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity. In his sophomore year, he wrote a program he called CourseMatch, which allowed users to make class selection decisions based on the choices of other students and also to help them form study groups. A short time later, he created a different program he initially called Facemash that let students select the best looking person from a choice of photos. According to Zuckerberg's roommate at the time, Arie Hasit, "he built the site for fun." Hasit explains:

We had books called Face Books, which included the names and pictures of everyone who lived in the student dorms. At first, he built a site and placed two pictures, or pictures of two males and two females. Visitors to the site had to choose who was "hotter" and according to the votes there would be a ranking.

The site went up over the weekend, but by Monday morning the college shut it down because its popularity had overwhelmed Harvard's server and prevented students from accessing the web. In addition, many students complained that their photos were being used without permission. Zuckerberg apologized publicly, and the student paper ran articles stating that his site was "completely improper."

At the time of Zuckerberg's "fun" site, however, students had already been requesting that the university develop a web site that would include similar photos and contact details to be part of the college's computer network. According to Hasit, "Mark heard these pleas and decided that if the university won't do something about it, he will, and he would build a site that would be even better than what the university had planned."

Facebook

Founding and goals

Zuckerberg at World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (January 2009)Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room on February 4, 2004. An earlier inspiration for Facebook may have come from Phillips Exeter Academy, the prep school from which Zuckerberg graduated in 2002. It published its own student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” which students referred to as “The Facebook.” Such photo directories were an important part of the student social experience at many private schools. With them, students were able to list attributes such as their class years, their proximities to friends, and their telephone numbers.

Once at college, Zuckerberg's Facebook started off as just a "Harvard thing" until Zuckerberg decided to spread it to other schools, enlisting the help of roommate Dustin Moskovitz. They first started it at Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, Brown, and Yale, and then at other schools that had social contacts with Harvard.

Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, California, with Moskovitz and some friends. They leased a small house that served as an office. Over the summer, Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel who invested in the company. They got their first office in mid-2004. According to Zuckerberg, the group planned to return to Harvard but eventually decided to remain in California. They had already turned down offers by major corporations to buy out Facebook. In an interview in 2007, Zuckerberg explained his reasoning:

It's not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.

He restated these same goals to Wired magazine in 2010: "The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open." Earlier, in April 2009, Zuckerberg sought the advice of former Netscape CFO Peter Currie about financing strategies for Facebook.

President Barack Obama and Zuckerberg talk before a private meeting where Obama dined with technology business leaders in Woodside, California, February 17, 2011. (Also pictured, from left: Carol Bartz of Yahoo!, Art Levinson of Genentech, Steve Westly of The Westly Group, and Eric Schmidt of Google.)

President Barack Obama and Zuckerberg talk before a private meeting where Obama dined with technology business leaders in Woodside, California, February 17, 2011. (Also pictured, from left: Carol Bartz of Yahoo!, Art Levinson of Genentech, Steve Westly of The Westly Group, and Eric Schmidt of Google.)

On July 21, 2010, Zuckerberg reported that the company reached the 500 million-user mark. When asked whether Facebook could earn more income from advertising as a result of its phenomenal growth, he explained:

I guess we could ... If you look at how much of our page is taken up with ads compared to the average search query. The average for us is a little less than 10 percent of the pages and the average for search is about 20 percent taken up with ads ... That’s the simplest thing we could do. But we aren’t like that. We make enough money. Right, I mean, we are keeping things running; we are growing at the rate we want to.

In 2010, Stephen Levy, who authored the 1984 book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, wrote that Zuckerberg "clearly thinks of himself as a hacker." Zuckerberg said that "it's OK to break things" "to make them better." Facebook instituted "hackathons" held every six to eight weeks where participants would have one night to conceive of and complete a project. The company provided music, food, and beer at the hackathons, and many Facebook staff members, including Zuckerberg, regularly attended. "The idea is that you can build something really good in a night", Zuckerberg told Levy. "And that's part of the personality of Facebook now ... It's definitely very core to my personality."

Vanity Fair magazine named Zuckerberg number 1 on its 2010 list of the Top 100 "most influential people of the Information Age". Zuckerberg ranked number 23 on the Vanity Fair 100 list in 2009. In 2010, Zuckerberg was chosen as number 16 in New Statesman's annual survey of the world's 50 most influential figures.

Wirehog

A month after Facebook launched in February 2004, i2hub, another campus-only service, created by Wayne Chang, was launched. i2hub focused on peer-to-peer file sharing. At the time, both i2hub and Facebook were gaining the attention of the press and growing rapidly in users and publicity. In August 2004, Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Adam D'Angelo, and Sean Parker launched a competing peer-to-peer file sharing service called Wirehog. It was a precursor to Facebook Platform applications. Traction was low compared to i2hub, and Facebook ultimately shut Wirehog down the following summer.

Platform and Beacon

On May 24, 2007, Zuckerberg announced Facebook Platform, a development platform for programmers to create social applications within Facebook. Within weeks, many applications had been built and some already had millions of users. It grew to more than 800,000 developers around the world building applications for Facebook Platform. On July 23, 2008, Zuckerberg announced Facebook Connect, a version of Facebook Platform for users.

On November 6, 2007, Zuckerberg announced a new social advertising system called Beacon, which enabled people to share information with their Facebook friends based on their browsing activities on other sites. For example, eBay sellers could let friends know automatically what they have for sale via the Facebook news feed as they list items for sale. The program came under scrutiny because of privacy concerns from groups and individual users. Zuckerberg and Facebook failed to respond to the concerns quickly, and on December 5, 2007, Zuckerberg wrote a blog post on Facebook taking responsibility for the concerns about Beacon and offering an easier way for users to opt out of the service.

Pakistan criminal investigation

In June 2010, Pakistani Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Azhar Sidiqque launched a criminal investigation into Zuckerberg and Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes after a "Draw Muhammad" contest was hosted on Facebook. The investigation also named the anonymous German woman who created the contest. Sidiqque asked the country's police to contact Interpol to have Zuckerberg and the three others arrested for blasphemy. On May 19, 2010, Facebook's website was temporarily blocked in Pakistan until Facebook removed the contest from its website at the end of May. Sidiqque also asked its United Nations representative to raise the issue with the United Nations General Assembly.

Depictions in media

The Social Network

A movie based on Zuckerberg and the founding years of Facebook, called The Social Network, was released on October 1, 2010, and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. After Zuckerberg was told about the film, he responded, "I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive." Also, after the film's script was leaked on the Internet and it was apparent that the film would not portray Zuckerberg in a wholly positive light, he stated that he wanted to establish himself as a "good guy". The film is based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, which the book's publicist once described as "big juicy fun" rather than "reportage." The film's screenwriter Aaron Sorkin told New York magazine, "I don't want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling", adding, "What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy's sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?"

Upon winning the Golden Globes award for Best Picture on January 16, 2011, producer Scott Rudin thanked Facebook and Zuckerberg "for his willingness to allow us to use his life and work as a metaphor through which to tell a story about communication and the way we relate to each other.” Sorkin, who won for Best Screenplay, retracted some of the impressions given in his script:

"I wanted to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight, if you're watching, Rooney Mara's character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary, and an incredible altruist."

On January 29, 2011, Zuckerberg made a surprise guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, which was being hosted by Jesse Eisenberg. They both said it was the first time they ever met. Eisenberg asked Zuckerberg, who had been critical of his portrayal by the film, what he thought of the movie. Zuckerberg replied, “It was interesting.” In a subsequent interview about their meeting, Eisenberg explains that he was "nervous to meet him, because I had spent now, a year and a half thinking about him. . ." He adds, "Mark has been so gracious about something that’s really so uncomfortable....The fact that he would do SNL and make fun of the situation is so sweet and so generous. It’s the best possible way to handle something that, I think, could otherwise be very uncomfortable."

Disputed accuracy

Author Jeff Jarvis, of the forthcoming book Public Parts, interviewed Zuckerberg and believes Sorkin has made too much of the story up. He states, "That's what the internet is accused of doing, making stuff up, not caring about the facts."

According to David Kirkpatrick, former technology editor at Fortune magazine and author of The Facebook Effect:The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, (2011), "the film is only "40% true. . . he is not snide and sarcastic in a cruel way, the way Zuckerberg is played in the movie." He says that "a lot of the factual incidents are accurate, but many are distorted and the overall impression is false," and concludes that primarily "his motivations were to try and come up with a new way to share information on the internet."

Although the film portrays Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook in order to elevate his stature after not getting into any of the elite final clubs at Harvard, Zuckerberg himself said he had no interest in joining the final clubs. Kirkpatrick agrees that the impression implied by the film is "false."

Karel Baloun, a former senior engineer at Facebook, notes that the "image of Zuckerberg as a socially inept nerd is overstated . . .It is fiction. . ." He likewise dismisses the film's assertion that he "would deliberately betray a friend."

Other depictions

Zuckerberg voiced himself on an episode of The Simpsons, "Loan-a Lisa", which first aired on October 3, 2010. In the episode, Lisa Simpson and her friend Nelson encounter Zuckerberg at an entrepreneurs' convention. Zuckerberg tells Lisa that she does not need to graduate from college to be wildly successful, referencing Bill Gates and Richard Branson as examples.

On October 9, 2010, Saturday Night Live lampooned Zuckerberg and Facebook. Andy Samberg played Zuckerberg. The real Zuckerberg was reported to have been amused: "I thought this was funny."

Stephen Colbert awarded a "Medal of Fear" to Zuckerberg at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010, "because he values his privacy much more than he values yours."

Philanthropy

Zuckerberg donated an undisclosed amount to Diaspora, an open-source personal web server that implements a distributed social networking service. He called it a "cool idea."

Zuckerberg founded the Start-up: Education foundation. On September 22, 2010, it was reported that Zuckerberg had arranged to donate $100 million to Newark Public Schools, the public school system of Newark, New Jersey. Critics noted the timing of the donation as being close to the release of The Social Network, which painted a somewhat negative portrait of Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg responded to the criticism, saying, "The thing that I was most sensitive about with the movie timing was, I didn’t want the press about 'The Social Network' movie to get conflated with the Newark project. I was thinking about doing this anonymously just so that the two things could be kept separate." Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker stated that he and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to convince Zuckerberg's team not to make the donation anonymously.

On December 8, 2010, Zuckerberg released a statement that he had become a signatory of The Giving Pledge.

* * *

Some screenshots in this article are of copyrighted web pages, and the copyright for it is most likely held by owner of the website. It may also contain trademarked logos, which are likely not affiliated with Wikipedia. It is believed that the use of a limited number of such screenshots for identification and critical commentary relating to the website in question on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other uses of this image, on Wikipedia or elsewhere, might be copyright infringement. See Wikipedia:Non-free content for more information.

Published - March 2011












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