Facebook is a social networking website, launched on February 4, 2004. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, a former Harvard student. Initially the membership of Facebook was restricted to students of Harvard College. It was subsequently expanded to MIT, Boston University, Boston College, and all Ivy League schools within two months. Many individual universities were added in rapid succession over the next year. Eventually, people with a university (e.g .edu, .ac.uk, etc.) email address from institutions across the globe were eligible to join. Networks were then initiated for high schools on February 27, 2006 and some large companies. Since September 11, 2006, anyone 13 or older may join. Users can select to join one or more participating networks, such as a school, place of employment, geographic region, or social group.
The site has more than 62 million active users (including non-collegiate members) worldwide. From September 2006 to September 2007 the site's traffic ranking increased from 60th to 7th, according to Alexa. It is the most popular website for uploading photos, with 14 million uploaded daily.
The name of the site refers to the paper facebooks depicting members of the campus community that some U.S. colleges and preparatory schools give to incoming students, faculty, and staff as a way to get to know other people on campus.
The site is free to users and generates revenue from advertising including banner ads and sponsored groups (in April 2006, revenue was rumored to be over $1.5 million per week). Users create profiles that often contain photos and lists of personal interests, exchange private or public messages, and join groups of friends. The viewing of detailed profile data is restricted to users from the same network or confirmed friends. According to TechCrunch, "about 85% of students in [previously] supported colleges have a profile [on the site]. [Of those who are signed up,] 60% log in daily. About 85% log in at least once a week, and 93% log in at least once a month." According to Chris Hughes, spokesman for Facebook, "People spend an average of 19 minutes a day on Facebook." In a 2006 study conducted by Student Monitor, a New Jersey-based limited liability company specialising in research concerning the college student market, Facebook was named as the second most "in" thing among undergraduates, tied with beer and sex and losing only to the iPod.
Mark Zuckerberg founded "The Facebook" in February 2004, while attending Harvard University, with support from Andrew McCollum and Eduardo Saverin. By the end of the month, more than half of the undergraduate population at Harvard were registered on the service. At that time, Zuckerberg was joined by Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes for site promotion and Facebook expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale. This expansion continued in April of 2004 when it expanded to the rest of Ivy League and a few other schools. At the end of the school year, Zuckerberg and Moskovitz moved out to Palo Alto, California with McCollum, who had a summer internship at Electronic Arts. They rented a house near Stanford University where they were joined by Adam D'Angelo and Sean Parker. Soon McCollum decided to leave EA and help with the development of Facebook and a companion website, Wirehog, full-time. In September, Divya Narendra, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, the owners of the social networking website HarvardConnection, subsequently changed to ConnectU, filed a lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that Zuckerberg had illegally used source code intended for the website they asked him to build for them. Also at that time, Facebook received approximately $500,000 from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel in an angel round. By December, Facebook's user base had exceeded one million.
In May 2005, Facebook raised $12.8 million in venture capital from Accel Partners. On August 23, 2005, Facebook bought the domain name facebook.com from the Aboutface Corporation for $200,000 and dropped "the" from its name. At that time the site was overhauled, a change intended to make profile pages more user-friendly, according to Zuckerberg. Also that month McCollum went back to Harvard although he continued to serve as a consultant and returned to work on staff during the summers. As before, Hughes remained in Cambridge while he performed his duties as company spokesperson. Then, on September 2, 2005, Zuckerberg launched the high school iteration of Facebook, calling it the next logical thing to do. While initially described as separate "communities" to which users needed to be invited to participate, within only fifteen days most high school networks did not require a password to join (although registration with Facebook was still necessary.) By October, Facebook's expansion had trickled down to most small universities and junior colleges in the United States, Canada, and the UK, in addition to having 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. On December 11, 2005, universities in Australia and New Zealand were added to the Facebook network, bringing its size to more than 2,000 colleges and more than 25,000 high schools throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.
On February 27, 2006, Facebook began allowing college students to add high school students as friends due to requests from users. About a month later, on March 28, 2006, BusinessWeek reported that a potential acquisition of the site was under negotiation. Facebook reportedly declined an offer of $750 million, and it was rumored that the asking price was as high as $2 billion. In April, Peter Thiel, Greylock Partners, and Meritech Capital Partners invested an additional $25 million in the site. In May, Facebook's network extended into India, at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The following month Facebook threatened to seek costs of up to $100,000 from Quizsender.com for copyright infringement for allegedly copying the "look and feel" of Facebook. On July 25, new services were offered in the site that would potentially produce additional revenue. A promotion was arranged between Facebook and iTunes, in which members of the Apple Students group would receive a free 25 song sampler each week until September 30 in various music genres. The promotion's purpose was to make students more familiar with and enthusiastic about each service as fall classes approached. In the early half of August, Facebook added universities in Germany and high schools in Israel, (Haifa, Jerusalem, and Qiryat Gat) to its network. On the 22nd of that month, Facebook introduced Facebook Notes, a blogging feature with tagging, embedded images, and other features, also allowing the importation of blogs from Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other blogging services. This newly added feature also included the common blog feature of allowing readers to comment on users' entries. On September 11, 2006, Facebook became open to all users of the Internet, prompting protest from its existing user base. Two weeks later, Facebook opened registration to anyone with a valid e-mail address.
On May 10, 2007, Facebook announced a plan to add free classified advertisements to its website, making it a competitor with established online companies such as Craigslist. This feature, known as Facebook Marketplace, went live on May 14, 2007; Facebook launched an API that allows the development of applications to be used on the site, known as Facebook Platform.
In June, the partnership begun the previous year between iTunes and Facebook continued, with the download service again offering free music samplers through the Apple Students group.
In July, Facebook announced its first acquisition, purchasing Parakey, Inc. from Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt. In August, the company was featured in a Newsweek cover story by Steven Levy in the magazine's annual college edition. Facebook hired YouTube's former CFO Gideon Yu on July 24, 2007. Gideon Yu succeeded Michael Sheridan.
In October Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share in the company for $240 million. An outright sale of Facebook is said to be unlikely as founder Mark Zuckerberg would like to keep it independent.
On November 7, 2007, Facebook announced Facebook Ads; Facebook Beacon, a marketing initiative which includes a system for websites to allow users to share chosen information about their activities on the sites with their Facebook friends ; the capability of businesses to host pages on Facebook for various brands, products and services (Facebook Pages); a targeted ad serving program based on user and friend profile and activity data (Facebook Social Ads); and a service for providing businesses with advertisement analytic data including performance metrics (Facebook Insights). With respect to privacy, Facebook states that "no personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad," and that "Facebook users will only see Social Ads to the extent their friends are sharing information with them". Facebook Ads replaces the site's previous Facebook Flyers program. On November 30, 2007, it was reported that Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing had invested $60 million in Facebook.
On 5 December 2007, Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized for the way that Facebook launched the Beacon system, saying "The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends." Beacon can now be disabled through a new External websites section in Privacy.
 Site features
 The Wall
The Wall is a space on each user's profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see. One user's wall is visible to anyone with the ability to see their 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 person'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 textual content only.
One of the most popular applications on Facebook is the Photos application, where users can upload albums of photos, tag friends, and comment on photos. According to Facebook, there are:
- 1.7 billion user photos
- 2.2 billion friends tagged in user photos
- 160 terabytes of photo storage used with an extra 60 terabytes available
- 60+ million photos added each week which take up 5 terabytes of disk space
- 3+ billion photo images served to users every day
- 100,000+ images served per second during our peak traffic windows
In February 2007, Facebook added a new 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 will see the message. None will see the giver's name, and the gift will go in the recipient's gift box but not the wall.
Facebook users are given one free gift to give upon account signup. 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.
With the advent of Applications came a way to subvert the required US$1.00 payment; however, the gifts in the "Free Gifts" application, created by Zachary Allia, are not the same as the official gifts, as they are displayed in a different manner.
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.
Facebook includes a "poke" feature that allows one user to send a "poke" to another. According to Facebook's FAQ section on the Poke Feature, "a poke is a way to interact with your friends on Facebook. 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." In principle, this is intended to be a "nudge" to attract the attention of the other user. However, while many Facebook users, as intended, use the feature to attract attention or say hello, some users construe it as a sexual advance. This interpretation of the feature inspired a popular Facebook group titled "Enough with the Poking, Lets Just Have Sex," which, as of December 2007, has more than 340,000 members.
There are several applications such as "X Me" and "SuperPoke!" that allow users to put any action in place of the word "poke."
The "status" feature allows users to inform their friends and the Facebook community of their current whereabouts and actions. Facebook originally prompted the status update with "User name is..." and Facebook users filled in the rest. However, on December 13, 2007, the requirement to start a status update with "is" was removed, and all status updates read "User name ..." Status updates are noted in the "Recently updated" section of a user's friend list.
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, tagline, network, host name, event type, start and end time, location & city, and a guest list of friends invited. Events can be open, closed, or secret. When setting up an event the user can choose to allow friends to upload photos, video, and posted items.
On May 24, 2007, Facebook launched the Facebook Platform, which provides a framework for developers to create applications that interact with core Facebook features. Even games such as chess and Scrabble are available. As of December 5, 2007, there are more than 10,000 applications.
Third-party websites such as Adonomics, which provides application metrics, and blogs such as AppRate, Inside Facebook and Face Reviews have sprung up in response to the clamor for Facebook applications.
On August 29, 2007, Facebook changed the way in which the popularity of applications is measured, in order to give more attention to the more engaging applications, following criticism that ranking applications only by the number of users 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.
 Facebook Video
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.
 Technical details
 Facebook Markup Language
Facebook Markup Language ("FBML") is a variant evolved subset of HTML with some elements removed. It allows Facebook application writers to customise the "look and feel" of their applications, to a limited extent. It is the specification of how to encode your content so that Facebook's servers can read and publish it, which you will need to use in your Facebook-specific feed so that Facebook's system can properly parse your content and publish it as specified. You set the FBML for a profile box by calling profile.setFBML through the API. The FBML is cached on Facebook's server until profile.setFBML is called again through a canvas page. The official FBML documentation is now hosted on the Facebook Developers Wiki.
The FBML will expand to something like this:
The fb_sig value is generated using all of the other fb_sig_ parameters (but without the "fb_sig_" prefix included in their names) identically to how it is generated in the API authentication scheme. The fb_sig_user and fb_sig_session_key parameters will only be included if the user has a valid session with the application.
 Model of the domain
The diagram on the right, expressed using the UML standard notation for class diagrams, represents a subset of the information managed by Facebook. It gives a concise picture of the various entities, relations and fields stored in the database.
For instance, the diagram shows what fields are associated with the notion of Job, School, CreditCard, ScreenName, and so on (see the corresponding yellow boxes representing classes).
Note that this is a conceptual class diagram: it describes the concepts rather than the implementation and the detail of the database. For more information about technical models, see FQL - Facebook Query Language (SQL-like query language).
 Sale rumors
In 2006, with the sale of social networking site MySpace to NewsCorp, rumors surfaced about the possible sale of Facebook to a larger media company. Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, had already said that he did not want to sell the company and denied rumors to the contrary. He had already rejected outright offers in the range of $975 million, and it was not clear who might be willing to pay a higher premium for the site. Steve Rosenbush, a technology business analyst, suspected Viacom might.
In September 2006, serious talks between Facebook and Yahoo! took place for the acquisition of the social network, with prices reaching as high as $1 billion. In October 2007, after Google purchased video-sharing site YouTube, rumors circulated that Google had offered $2.3 billion to outbid Yahoo!. Peter Thiel, a board member of Facebook, indicated that Facebook's internal valuation is around $8 billion based on their projected revenues of $1 billion by 2015, comparable to that of Viacom's MTV brand and based on shared target demographic audience.
In September 2007, Microsoft approached Facebook, proposing an investment in return for a 5% stake in the company. Microsoft would pay an estimated 300 to 500 million dollars for the share. Other companies such as Google had also expressed interest in buying a portion of Facebook. On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had bought a 1.6% share of Facebook for $246 million
 Use in investigations
- Main article: Use of social network websites in investigations
 Blocking of Facebook Abroad
In November of 2007, Facebook was blocked by the Syrian government on the premise that it promoted attacks on the authorities. No comment was made from the government that blocked it, which has started a crackdown on online political activism in that period. Burma and Bhutan are among many nations to have banned the website.
 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.
Many school boards in North America that run elementary through high schools have access to Facebook blocked.
 Organizations blocking Facebook
Ontario government employees, 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, 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.
 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".
Additional usage of Facebook as a tool of remembrance is expressed in group memberships on the site. Now that groups are community-wide and available among all networks, many users create Facebook groups to remember not only a deceased friend or individual, but also as a source of support in response to an occurrence such as the September 11, 2001 attacks or the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007.
Such memorial groups have also raised legal issues. Notably, on January 1, 2008, one such memorial group posted the identities 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 her accused killers, in defiance of Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act which prohibits publishing the names of underage 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
 Legal challenges over concept rights
 Lawsuit from Connectu.com
|This article documents an ongoing lawsuit. |
Information may change rapidly as the suit progresses.
Founder of Facebook.com, Mark Zuckerberg, has been accused of illegally using both the concept and source code from competing site Connectu.com. In November 2003, ConnectU engaged Mark Zuckerberg, then a sophomore at Harvard, to complete the computer programming for their website. Upon joining the ConnectU team, Zuckerberg was given full access to the website source code. Allegedly, Zuckerberg intentionally hampered the development of ConnectU while using code originally intended for ConnectU in the development of Facebook.
Since its original filing in Massachusetts in September 2004, the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice due to technicality on March 28, 2007, but was never ruled on. It was refiled soon thereafter in U.S. District Court in Boston, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 25, 2007. Facebook asked the district court to dismiss the case. The attorneys representing Facebook referred to the allegations as "broad brush" with no evidence to support them.
 Aaron Greenspan & houseSYSTEM
Aaron Greenspan, a Harvard classmate of Mark Zuckerberg, claims that he created the original college social networking system, before either Facebook or ConnectU were founded.
 Privacy concerns
- Further information: Criticism of Facebook
Another clause that some users are critical of reserves 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 has also been 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." It is unclear if Facebook plans to remove that clause as well.
Third party applications have access to almost all user information and "Facebook does not screen or approve Platform Developers and cannot control how such Platform Developers use any personal information."
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 only powers the 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 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.
In November 2007, Facebook launched a new part of its Ads system named Beacon that published Facebook users' activities on partner websites such as eBay, Fandango, Travelocity, and Blockbuster to their friends. Moveon.org created an online petition due to privacy concerns, and Facebook modified the service to some extent. However, privacy concerns have continued in the wake of a report by a security researcher at Computer Associates that noted that data on users' activities is often still sent to Facebook, even if a user has opted-out on the partner site and logged out of Facebook.
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.