Facebook turned 18 today. All of us are aware of this social networking site available in 112 languages, as it has become a part of our everyday lives. Ironically, Facebook lost more than $237 billion in value, just a day before. Same day its daily active users fell for first time in 18-year history.
The company’s sales growth had apparently been hurt as audiences, especially younger users, are leaving for rivals. Notwithstanding, Facebook gives us easy access to engage with other people and attend social events.
Old and new contacts have been established and there is an endless body of information. It has emerged as a tech-giant acquiring other communication and networking sites like WhatsApp and Instagram. Recently, the company changed its name to Meta.
How did it get so big
Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, its name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students.
At first, the membership was limited to Harvard students only. It was gradually expanded to other nearby colleges and the Ivy League.
By September 2006, it was accessible in most of the universities in the US and Canada, and it has not looked back since then.
In 2021, it had nearly three billion users. In an interview Zuckerberg said that he never thought of building a multi-million-dollar enterprise.
“Ten years ago, you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools.”
Facebook filed to become a public company in February 2012 and it’s initial public offering (IPO) raised $16 billion, giving it a market value of $102.4 billion.
Not all roses and sunshine
Although Facebook became immensely popular, it has also faced many backlashes. It has been engaged in various lawsuits since its conception.
The issue of privacy has been a huge roadblock for the company since 2006. People have complained about the complex privacy controls and the frequent changes made to them.
Facebook has become a powerful tool for political movements and it has been alleged that the company allowed fake Russian accounts to spread propaganda and influence the results of 2016 US presidential elections.
“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” Zuckerberg wrote in a statement directly addressing this issue.
Facebook has also been mired in controversies over the spread of fake news and propaganda. Whistle blowers have accused it of inaction to curb hate speech and even promoting it for profits.
In a congressional hearing, Zuckerberg said, “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well, and that goes for ‘fake news,’ for foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as [for] developers and data privacy. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal of 2018 once again revealed that the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users was sold to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm to support various election campaigns.
Is metaverse the future
Facebook changed its company name to Meta in October 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg introduced “Metaverse” as the future of Internet. It is a virtual world where people can socialize through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
It will be “like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are, we’ll be able to express ourselves in new joyful, completely immersive ways,” said Zuckerberg in his demo of the metaverse.
Many critics have argued that this re-branding is a tactic to distract from the more significant issues concerning Facebook.
The metaverse is capable of shifting our existence, rooted in the physical world, to the digital world.
The questions about how Meta is going to ensure safety and responsibility in the virtual world when it is hardly able to do so in the real world still remain!