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Chapter 2: Facebook – From Then To Now
Facebook was originally founded in early 2004 by a group of ex-Harvard university students as a service that was initially restricted to students of their own university.
From there, Facebook rapidly expanded their services into most of the Ivy League universities in the USA, and thereafter it went to a larger scale in the USA, spreading to most universities and eventually down into high schools as well.
Next, the site went international by moving into Canada, Australia and the UK so that it was (in its final ‘guise’ as an educational service) open to anyone who had a university or college e-mail address (e.g .edu, .ac.uk etc).
In late 2006, Facebook finally took the decision to move away from these educational grassroots and became a truly open service that anybody, anywhere in the world could register with and participate in (a move which prompted significant protests from the existing Facebook user base!).
Despite this move away from their traditional roots, however, Facebook even now still has an effective stranglehold on the educational social networking community especially in the USA, with the company claiming that almost all US college students have Facebook accounts.
This situation is, to a certain extent at least, replicated in many other countries across the world.
As proof of this, according to Wikipedia, in late November 2007 Facebook had the largest registered number of collegiate and student users of any social networking site, with 55 million users worldwide.
By the end of 2007, this figure is expected to pass 60 million users, of whom over half (that is, more than 30 million) actively participate in the Facebook community at least once a month.
To put Facebook’s current rate of expansion into some kind of perspective, one year ago the site was enjoying 15,000 new user signups per day.
Now, that figure is over 100,000 new signups each and every day, and the site is expanding at a rate of 3% per week according to the latest statistics presented by the company Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Perhaps more interestingly, Zuckerberg also claims that the fastest growing demographic group of new Facebook users is in the over 25 years of age group. This would suggest a ‘maturing’ of the Facebook community, and the beginnings of a move away from the original bias towards those with a college and high school background.
Indeed, over 60% of registered Facebook users are now non-college students, and that figure is expected to increase to over 75% (that will be 50 million users) in the next six months.
Facebook is currently enjoying 70 billion page views per month, and is the sixth most trafficked website in the USA, having recently surpassed eBay, and is now rapidly closing in on Google’s traffic figures.
Nor is Facebook still quite so focused on the USA as it once was, with over 10% of Canadians now being Facebook account holders, with similar levels in the UK.
If you then add in the fact that Microsoft has recently paid 240 million US dollars for a 1.6% stake in Facebook (which values the company at around $15 billion in total) you clearly have a picture of a company and the website that is going places very quickly indeed.
It is clear that Facebook is a website and social community that is enjoying phenomenal levels of growth from what was a relatively closeted and deeply specialized background.
These numbers would also clearly indicate that Facebook could represent a potentially huge market place for any business or organization that can create means of advertising that are effective with the site members.
Whether anybody has so far managed to achieve this or, indeed, whether it is actually possible to achieve is one of the critical questions that we are going to look at in considerably more detail in this book.
Chapter 3: Comparing Facebook with MySpace
Despite all of these facts and figures, however, MySpace is still by far the most popular social networking site, and that is a situation that seems unlikely to change in the near future.
Now, all of the major community sites do emphasize that the main function is to provide a means for people from all over the world to network with one another.
It would therefore be fair to suggest that most of these sites have (as far as it is possible) tried to discourage and prevent people from viewing them as commercially orientated sites.
In other words, sites like MySpace and Facebook do not want their communities used by members promoting their products or services to other members. Despite the fact that it is owned by the Fox Corporation, even MySpace is no exception to this rule, and has gone to some lengths to prevent the site becoming a huge online auction or bazaar by another name.Other Details
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