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Facebook is a social networking website where people from around the world can add friends, exchange messages, join groups with common interests and share photographs or videos. The name of the website stems from the colloquial name for books that are distributed to students by university administrations at the start of each academic year with the intention of helping students identify each other. By October 2012, the site had grown to 1 billion users.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook while he was enrolled at Harvard University with college roommates and fellow computer science students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The early prototype of Facebook was initially called “Facemash” and it was launched on October 28th, 2003. According to the Harvard Crimson, the site represented a Harvard University version of Hot or Not, an image rating site where visitors can rate user-submitted photos based on their level of attractiveness, by presenting photographs of two students side-by-side and ask the viewer to choose the “hotter” person.
To accomplish this project, Zuckerberg compiled photographs from the online profiles of student houses and even reportedly hacked into the secure areas of Harvard’s computer network and copied the houses’ private dormitory ID images. On February 4th, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook” as a social networking site specifically for Harvard University students. In July of 2004, the Guardian reported that more than half the undergraduate population at Harvard registered on the service within the first month of launch.
Facebook incorporated in the summer of 2004 and appointed Internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, who founded the music sharing website Napster and had been informally advising Zuckerberg, as the company’s president. In June 2004, Facebook moved its base of operations to Palo Alto, California. In 2005, the company dropped “The” from its name after purchasing the domain facebook.com for $200,000. In September 2005, the site significantly expanded its userbase after opening up registration for high school networks. On September 26th, 2006, Facebook officially opened up registration for anyone older than age of 13 with a valid e-mail address.
Even before Facebook announced its revenue profit for the first time in September 2009, rumors about Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) had been circulating both online and in the news media for years. In November 2010, online marketplace SecondMarket reported that Facebook’s value was estimated at $41 billion, surpassing that of eBays as the third largest largest U.S. web-based company after Google and Amazon.
On January 25th, 2011, Bloomberg reported that Facebook halted trading of its shares in secondary markets for three days, which analysts read as a possible indicator that the company is gearing up for the much-anticipated IPO process. Two days later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook Inc. was preparing to file for an initial public offering in early February with Morgan Stanley as the likely underwriter, citing company’s anonymous insiders who are apparently familiar with the matter. The article also reported that Facebook is looking to raise as much as $10 billion in its initial offering and a valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion, which would be more than four times the capitalization Google had during its IPO in 2004.
On May 18th, 2012, Facebook held their initial public offering, with shares opening at $38. Within the first half hour, 200 million shares were traded and that day, the price peaked at $45 a share. By October 4th, the price had gone down to $21.95 a share and dozens of lawsuits had been filed against both Facebook and NASDAQ due to glitches that occurred on the stock’s opening day of trading.
On September 27th, 2011, Redditor realbigfatty posted a thread titled “How to annoy Facebook” to the /r/funny subreddit. The post contained a link to an image outlining how to make a data request to Facebook to send all the personal data they have collected about you as part of the “european Data Protection Directive.”
The same day, Redditor endroop posted a screenshot of an email from Facebook saying they would not be able to fulfill his data request due to the volume of requests they were receiving. Shortly after, an article was published to the technology blog ZDnet that claimed the Reddit thread managed to “overwhelm Facebook with data requests.”
The image then goes on to explain that because of Britain’s 1988 Data Protection Act (DPA), Facebook has to send you your data on a CD within 40 days. It’s worth noting that this is a mistake, the DPA in question is Ireland’s. The CD contains a PDF that is typically more than 1,000 pages long and more than 100MB in size.
On September 28th, Reddit davesterist posted a screenshot of an email he received from Facebook explaining that they would not be fulfilling his request because he lives in the United States where there are no laws that require Facebook to send personal data.
Graphic Image Reports
On November 15th, 2011, various news outlets including CNN, Time and Fox News published articles about reports that graphic photos of pornography and gore, including lewd photoshopped photos of celebrities like Justin Bieber, were showing up on their Facebook Newsfeeds. The unofficial Facebook blog All Facebook noted that this wasn’t the first time this type of spam had appeared on the social networking site:
This isn’t the first time that pornographic images have become spam on the site, but more than a year has passed since the last time we saw anything like it; and this time around the photos are much more explicit than the ones going up in August, 2010.
An article by MSNBC writer Helen A.S. Popkin noted that the resurgence of a hoax about hackers posting porn links invisible to the owner’s wall may have been related to the porn spam issue.
In that case, the screaming warnings claimed hackers would use a victim’s name to post porn videos to the Facebook walls of the victim’s Facebook friends. What’s more, these posts remained invisible to the victim. Several security agencies including Sophos say that they’ve found no evidence that hackers can are able to prevent you from seeing content they’ve posted using your name. This particular hoax first surfaced in September and it’s possible the resurgence may’ve been caused by panic over this current alleged rash of nasty spam.
New Guidelines and Copyright Hoax
“In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).
For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!
(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).”
On November 26th, several news sites including Gizmodo,Gawker and ABC News reported that the widespread status update was a hoax, citing insert the primary explanation here. The same day, Facebook posted an update to its Newsroom site titled “Fact Check: Copyright Meme Spreading on Facebook,” which denied that the company was making changes to user media ownership (shown below).
There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users’ information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been.
Also on November 26th, the Internet news blog Slacktory published an article titled “Celebrities and Newsmakers Fall for the Facebook Copyright Notice Hoax,” which included several image macros mocking the idea that Facebook status updates can be used for legal protection (shown below).
2013 Government Requests Report
On August 27th, 2013, Facebook released its first Global Government Requests Report, revealing statistics on inquiries to the site from government officials across the world in both criminal and national security cases between January and June 2013. The report included a chart breaking down the number of requests received from a specific country, the number of accounts inquired about and the percentage of requests that were fulfilled, including partial fulfillments.
Click through to see entire list.
In that six month span, data from nearly 38,000 users was requested, with more than half of those users requested by the United States government. Only five other countries made requests in excess of 1,000: France, Germany, India, Italy and the United Kingdom. That day, the report was featured on a number of news outlets and internet culture blogs including Buzzfeed, The Verge, Russia Today, BBC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post among many others.
On September 21, 2011, Facebook updated their News Feed layout to automatically sort posts based on an algorithm that would determine what was most relevant to you, rather than chronological order.
Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top. If you haven’t visited Facebook for a while, the first things you’ll see are top photos and statuses posted while you’ve been away. They’re marked with an easy-to-spot blue corner.
The new layout received a backlash from many users, and was covered by MSNBC in an article titled “Facebook gives the News Feed a makeover, users get angry.” The extra status updates in the top right corner struck some people as being redundant, inspiring the creation of an Xzibit Yo Dawg derivative:
On September 22nd, 2011, Facebook held F8, an annual developers conference in San Francisco, where they unveiled a new profile layout called “Timeline.” The new layout used an algorithm to determine your top photos and posts to display along a timeline that shows less content as a user browses back in time.
On September 23rd, BuzzFeed revealed how Facebook users could enable the new Timeline profile 2 weeks early by faking the creation of an app. The same day they published a follow up post explaining how to use the new Timeline profile to view people who had unfriended you in the past. The post outlined how users could go back in their Timeline and discover who unfriended them by looking at the “Made X New Friends” boxes. People with “Add Friend” next to their name were those who had been removed as friends at some point. This feature was removed by the end of the day. Timeline profiles became accessible to all 800 million Facebook users on December 15th, 2011.
On October 4th, 2012, Mark Zuckerberg posted a note on his personal Facebook profile announcing that the site had reached the milestone of one billion users. In this note, he also revealed the first TV commercial for the social networking site titled “The Things That Connect Us.” Created by Wieden & Kennedy of Portland, Oregon, the ad (shown below) features a compilation of vignettes of people sitting in chairs and interacting as the narrator draws a series of comparisons between Facebook and chairs, in addition to doorbells, airplanes, bridges, dance floors and basketball.
The day it was released, the commercial was featured on tech and commercial blogs as well as news sites including Adland, Ads of the World, the Huffington Post, the Examiner, the Atlantic Wire, Motherboard and Mashable, which asserted that the ad was confusing and used “lame analogies.” The Mashable article also pointed out that no one in the advertisement was seen using a computer.
The same day the ad was unveiled, a single topic Tumblr titled “Are Like Facebook” was created for parodies, arbitrarily comparing a variety of things like puppies, bananas and prosthetic limbs to Facebook.
Additionally, the Twitter account @FacebookChair was created for similar purposes, though it was seemingly abandoned after six tweets. On October 5th, the first round of parody skits based on the commercial began appearing on YouTube.
Social Graph Search
On January 15th, 2013, Facebook announced that it had released the beta version of “Graph Search,” a semantic search engine which allows users to find content by using natural language queries (ex: “bands my friends listen to” or “friends who work at my company”) and advanced filter options.
The same day, the technology news blog Gizmodo published an article reporting that the service could be used to paint users in a bad light, citing search results for queries like “women who like sucking dicks” or “men who like sexism.” On January 18th, Slacktory editor Nick Douglas uploaded a sketch to YouTube in which he reads aloud several humorous Social Graph search terms (shown below).
On January 22nd, the Tumblr blog “Actual Facebook Graph Searches” was launched, which featured screenshots of humorous search queries such as “mothers of Jews who like bacon” and “married people who like prostitutes.” The same day, the site was featured on the news aggregator website YCombinator, where it received over 430 up votes and 200 comments within 17 hours. On January 23rd, TechCrunch published an article about the Tumblr blog, comparing it to the public Facebook search site OpenBook.
Mobile Product: Facebook Home
On March 28th, 2013, Facebook announced that the company will hold a press conference at the headquarters on April 4th to reveal its “New Home on Android.” Though sources initially suggested it would be a modified version of Android operating system that would integrate one’s phone deeply into the Facebook network, others began to speculate that Facebook would be releasing a special HTC phone.
On the day of the event, Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Home, an application launcher that integrates into the apps already on a person’s Android. Accessible directly from one’s lock screen, the app instantly takes a user to their Coverfeed (shown below, left), a visually enhanced version of one’s normal Newsfeed. Facebook Home also offers a system called Chat Heads (shown below, right), which offers pop-up access to Facebook and SMS messaging no matter what app a person is using.
Numerous tech blogs and news sites offered live coverage of the event, during which some critics questioned the degree of privacy protection the app would offer. GigaOm reporter Om Malik suggested that the phone would allow Facebook to track a user’s every move, not only within the apps but through the phone’s GPS system. Despite this, other news sites including Slate and Forbes expressed excitement over the new phone option, with the latter hoping it could introduce a new era of communication protocol where people are connected through names and not numbers.
Facebook Cartoon Profile Week
Facebook Cartoon Profile Picture Week is a social networking trend which involves updating one’s Facebook profile picture with an image of his/her favorite cartoon character from childhood. Although individual practice of using cartoon avatars as profile pic may be seen as a common behavioral pattern, recent upsurge in frequency of profile change has apparently transformed into an international campaign to raise awareness for child abuse.
Facebook Bra Status Updates
Facebook Bra Status Update is an online survey game that spread through Facebook in early January of 2010 via private messages among female Facebook users. The updates were posted under the guise of spreading awareness about breast cancer.
Annoying Facebook Girl
Annoying Facebook Girl is an advice animal image macro series featuring a photo of a teenage girl rolling her eyes with her mouth agape, accompanied by a blue and white color wheel background. The overlaid text typically depicts vapid status updates, attention whoring and generally irritating Facebook activity.
Can This Get More Fans Than That?
Can This (X) Get More Fans Than (Y)? is an emerging trend of anti-fan mobilization via Facebook fan pages solely designed for the purpose of outnumbering the target celebrity’s fans on the social networking site. For comical effect, these Facebook groups often choose to endorse arbitrary items of little significance (X, as in Fishstick) in competing against the famous subjects (Y, as in Kanye West).
Facebook University Meme Pages
Facebook University Meme Pages are community pages featuring Internet memes related to specific academic institutions on the social networking site Facebook.
Facebook University Compliment Pages
Facebook University Compliment Pages are anonymous communities on the social networking site where students at a specific university are invited to privately message a compliment about another student which gets publicly posted by the main page.
Facebook is the most popular social networking site in several English-speaking countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. The website has received recognition in the “Top 100 Classic Websites” by PC Magazine in 2007, and the “People’s Voice Award” from the Webby Awards in 2008.
According to Techtree, “Facebook is the leading social networking site based on monthly unique visitors”, having overtaken main competitor MySpace in April 2008. According to an article by Social Media Today, 41.6% of the population of the United States had a Facebook account by August 2010. ComScore reports that Facebook attracted 132.1 million unique visitors in June 2008, compared to MySpace, which attracted 117.6 million.
According to Alexa, the website’s ranking among all websites increased from 60th to 7th in terms of worldwide traffic, from September 2006 to September 2007, and is ranked first worldwide as of October 2012. Quantcast ranks the website 3rd in the U.S., and Compete.com ranks it 2nd in the U.S. As of August 2012, Facebook sees an average of 2.7 billion likes, 300 million photos uploaded and 2.5 billion pieces of content shared per day.
Harvard Crimson – Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website Facemash
The Atlantic Wire – Facebook’s New Ad Finds ‘Real Human Emotion’ in Chairs
Washington Post – Facebook report: 74 countries sought data on 38,000 users