Facebook is an online social networking service headquartered in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg with his Harvard College roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities and later to high-school students. Since 2006, anyone who is at least 13 years old was allowed to become a registered user of the website, though the age requirement may be higher depending on applicable local laws. Its name comes from a colloquialism for the directory given to it by American universities’ students.
After registering to use the site, users can create a user profile, add other users as “friends”, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into lists such as “People From Work” or “Close Friends”. Facebook had over 1.18 billion monthly active users as of August 2015. Because of the large volume of data users submit to the service, Facebook has come under scrutiny for their privacy policies. Facebook, Inc. held its initial public offering in February 2012 and began selling stock to the public three months later, reaching an original peak market capitalization of $104 billion. On July 13, 2015, Facebook became the fastest company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to reach a market cap of $250 billion.
Zuckerberg wrote a program called Facemash on October 28, 2003 while attending Harvard University as a sophomore (second year student). According to The Harvard Crimson, the site was comparable to Hot or Not and 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 protected areas of Harvard’s computer network and copied private dormitory ID images. Harvard did not have a student “Facebook” (a directory with photos and basic information) at the time, although individual houses had been issuing their own paper facebooks since the mid-1980s, and Harvard’s longtime Freshman Yearbook was colloquially referred to as the “Freshman Facebook”. Facemash attracted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online.
The site was quickly forwarded to several campus group list-servers,[clarification needed] but was shut down a few days later by the Harvard administration. Zuckerberg faced expulsion and was charged by the administration with breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy. 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 exam. He uploaded 500 Augustan images to a website, each of which was featured with a corresponding comments section. He shared the site with his classmates and people started sharing notes.
The following semester, Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website in January 2004. He said he was inspired by an editorial about the Facemash incident in The Harvard Crimson. On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com.
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. They claimed that he was instead using their ideas to build a competing product. The three complained to The Harvard Crimson and the newspaper began an investigation. They later filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, subsequently settling in 2008 for 1.2 million shares (worth $300 million at Facebook’s IPO).
Membership was initially restricted to students of Harvard College; within the first month, more than half the undergraduates at Harvard were registered on the service. Eduardo Saverin (business aspects), Dustin Moskovitz (programmer), Andrew McCollum (graphic artist), and Chris Hughes joined Zuckerberg to help promote the website. In March 2004, Facebook expanded to the universities of Columbia, Stanford, and Yale. It later opened to all Ivy League colleges, Boston University, New York University, MIT, and gradually most universities in the United States and Canada.
Facebook has affected the social life and activity of people in various ways. With its availability on many mobile devices, Facebook allows users to continuously stay in touch with friends, relatives and other acquaintances wherever they are in the world, as long as there is access to the Internet. It can also unite people with common interests and/or beliefs through groups and other pages, and has been known to reunite lost family members and friends because of the widespread reach of its network.