Facebook: How Small Ideas Can Grow And Change The World
We've all heard of Facebook - the #1 social media platform.
But it's more than just a social network:
Facebook is a tech giant present in almost every part of our public and private lives.
It's not just a place for us to share our ideas and thoughts - it's a way of life, a never ending channel of information which gives us the world on a plate.
Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had to face unprecedented obstacles on both professional and personal levels to get where he is now.
In order to bring Facebook to life, Mark had to face extraordinary challenges: gong where no one had gone before!
Read the full story:
Whoever says that Facebook is just a social network, they're lying to themselves. Facebook is a tech giant present in almost every part of our public and private lives. It's not just a place for us to share our ideas and thoughts or read about the exploits of other people - it's a way of life, a never-ending channel of information which gives us the world on a plate.
But Facebook is far from your classic business-development story. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had to face unprecedented obstacles on both professional and personal levels to get where he is now. It's not a rosy story of a brilliant plan seeing the light of day and then struggling to attract believers willing to give it time. In order to bring extraordinary ideas to life means facing extraordinary challenges: going where no one had gone before!
A Gutsy Student Gets An Idea
Mark Zuckerberg was a rebellious 19-year-old when he first thought of Facemash back in 2003. This was the predecessor to his masterpiece - Facebook. On Facemash, students could choose between two pictures from other Harvard students and decide who was more attractive - basically an online version of the 'hot or not' game.
The website was a massive success, attracting more than 450 users and more than 22,000 photo views in a matter of hours after going live. Unfortunately, the Harvard administration took the page down after a few days, citing breaches of security regulations and violation of individual privacy and copyright infringement. Zuckerberg was on the verge of being expelled, but luckily, the charges were dropped.
The First Residents
The close brush with the law didn't discourage the young prodigy from digging into his idea of connecting the world.
Mark knew he was on to something, but the final piece of the puzzle would come in an idea he'll get when working on another project.
But it was far from his own, original idea. Mark was hired by the Winklevoss twins and their developer friend Divya Narendra to help develop a social network for Harvard students, which would be called HarvardConnect. Mark used the idea and the code he laid out for them to start a project of his own TheFacebook - a centralized platform filled with directories that featured photos and basic information on students from the university.
Within 24 hours of going live, the number of people that registered onto the site surpassed twelve hundred users, so he decided to make the platform available to wider audiences. In March that same year TheFacebook expanded, and students from Yale, Columbia, and Stanford also got access to it.
The Big Challenge
On the outside, it looked like everything was going smoothly and that Facebook's status as a tech giant was a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'. But behind the curtains, the situation was different: Mark was facing a battle that could have easily been the end of his beloved project.
A few months after going live, the Winklevosses and Divya sued Facebook, claiming that Mark stole the idea for Facebook while working on a project they hired him for, HarvardConnect, later renamed to ConnectU. After a long and drawn-out litigation process, they settled out of court, with Facebook essentially buying ConnectU, while also granting the plaintiffs shares in the company.
But there was still trouble down the line for Mark as he was about to face an even greater threat - his friend Eduardo sued him for share dilution in 2005. Once again, Mark was forced into settling out of court, or risk scaring off investors and running his business into the ground.
The Race To Fund Facebook
By the summer of 2004, it was evident: Facebook was going to be big, but no one could imagine just how big, yet!
In June, Mark decided to drop everything he was doing and move to Palo Alto, California, with goals of further developing his idea and getting investors to fund his dream of connecting the world. His friend and colleague, Eduardo Saverin, an economics major at Harvard, followed him to California, where he assumed the role of Facebook's CFO and business manager.
Investors started circling almost the same day they landed, and it was only a matter of time until Mark and Eduardo got their first funding. It came from former PayPal CEO and angel investor Peter Thiel who invested $500,000 in Facebook for 10.2% of the company.
With the money coming in, Facebook started diversifying. By the end of 2005 they covered more than 2,000 colleges and 25,000+ high schools, with around 6 million registered users.
The ball was now rolling, and as we can see 15 years later, it was unstoppable!
How Facebook Developed
With all crucial questions answered, Facebook steadied its ship and set course to greatness. The public and the investors were once again eager to get a taste of Facebook - money continued to pour in, and the number of users was rising exponentially.
On September 26, 2006, Facebook opened their site to everyone over the age of 13 with a valid e-mail address. However, it wasn't just individuals who flocked to the social network - businesses also saw an opportunity to grow and advertise themselves, and by late 2007, there were 100,000+ business profiles on the site.
Businesses saw the network as the perfect platform to look for new customers and tell them who they are and what they do, opening a whole new world of possibilities and ways to run a business. At first, they marketed themselves in groups, but the concept of company pages was already in the pipeline. Facebook announced and launched their Pages for Businesses in early 2008.
A Lot of Value, But Not A Lot Of Cash
With Facebook reaching 100 million users in mid-2008, Mark and his team started thinking about money. Up to that point, Facebook hadn't turned a profit, and since the platform was one-of-a-kind, the company's management decided to take their time and develop a monetization strategy that would keep the service free, but also profitable.
Advertising - in a way that would not only benefit the company, but also the whole world. They made changes to their existing advertisement policy - giving way to self-advertising and exchange of virtual goods to anyone on the internet willing to reach new potential customers, something which Mark resisted until then, striving to keep advertising on Facebook to a minimum. Its ad policy was altered in a way that gave an even playing field to both start-ups and established businesses, and in September 2009, Facebook announced its first profits.
They stayed on course for the next two years, until February 1, 2012, when they filed for an IPO. At the time, Facebook claimed to have 845 million active users every month and 2.7 billion likes and comments every day.
The company went public on May 18, gathering around $16 billion in share sales - the third-highest in US history, behind only General Motors and Visa Inc. Their stock prices rocketed through the roof, leaving it with a market capitalization that surpassed that of most public corporations.
The rest, as they say, is history. Facebook had achieved greatness, but it was on route to becoming something much more than a tech giant.
Facebook Today As Part Of Our Everyday Lives
These days Facebook is not even a tool or a platform - it's a necessity. It became an integral part of not only how we interact with the world, but also how we see it.
We get our news from it, we learn about local events, see how our friends are doing, almost all aspects of our private lives are now public - we have access to the world, and the world sees us.
If you ever wonder about the size and importance of Facebook, ask yourself and people around you the following question: can you imagine a world without Facebook?
The statistics say 9 out of 10 of you will blurt out a short 'no'. Also, would anyone want to live in a world without Facebook? Probably not.
The story of Facebook teaches us that the right idea at the right time is no guarantee that the world will accept us with open hands. There will be ups, downs, and quite a few breaking points which can be borne only by the strong of mind.
It's very simple to say that money and hard work are enough for a plan to become a reality. Just like with any other great invention in history, the minds behind it had to face their greatest enemies - themselves - and not allow personal inconveniences to steer them away from their initial dream - connecting the world to make it a better place.