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Facebook Celebrates 10th Birthday

The social networking website Facebook yesterday celebrated its 10th birthday as a company.

Created by founder Marc Zuckerberg whilst he was studying at Harvard University, the company has experienced meteoric growth. With an estimated 1.2 billion users at the end of January 2014, Facebook has changed the way that we use, think and talk about the internet. It’s not just a website; “To Facebook” has become a verb synonymous with connecting with new friends.

Facebook, initially known as ‘The Facebook’, started life as a highly-exclusive site for Harvard University students. The name was derived from a handbook which was sometimes given to new students which included information about and a photograph of each student. Facebook experienced a rapid growth in popularity, and was soon rolled out across dozens more university campuses. Today, anybody aged 13 and over is able to register a Facebook account. Around 1/6 of the world’s population have done so.

After initially relying on investment from venture capitalists, Facebook has become an increasingly profitable company. Just last week it announced record profits – £316 million in the last quarter – and a 63% rise in revenues from this time last year. These figures are being driven by advertising profits, more than half of which now come from mobile users. This is an impressive achievement given that industry experts remained sceptical about the possibility of monetising Facebook’s mobile apps. As recently as 2012 the company generated no income from mobile advertising.

The figures confirm Facebook’s status as the second biggest seller of website advertising in the US – leapfrogging Yahoo and surpassed only by Google.

Facebook’s 10-year history has not all been plain sailing. Zuckerberg has been surrounded by controversy regarding the originality of his idea. He was sued in 2004 by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who alleged that he had broken an oral agreement with them and had stolen their idea; the settlement is believed to have cost Zuckerberg $65 million. Eduardo Saverin received an undisclosed payout after filing a lawsuit regarding his involvement in the creation of Facebook. He has been reinstated as co-founder of the company. These controversies helped inspire the plot to the popular film The Social Network.

As Facebook heads into its second decade there are various challenges facing the company. Analysts continue to marvel at the enduring popularity of the platform – its longevity has far surpassed the likes of Myspace and Bebo – and predict that the bubble will surely burst.

This has been backed up by statistics showing that teenagers are abandoning Facebook in their droves, choosing to use Twitter and SnapChat instead. The reason for this departure? The fact that their parents – and middle aged friends – are such committed Facebook users.

However, this might just be the making of Facebook as it prepares for the next phase in its short history. If the monetisation of Facebook is all about advertising, then an increasingly middle-aged user base might be just what Zuckerberg and co are looking for.