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How Facebook ruled over the 2010s decade

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Facebook showed remarkable growth over ten years, reaching up to 600 %.

Facebook (FB) has now become a part of our daily life. It is true not only in the United States but all over the world. It seems to be held in the coming decade also. But how did alone Facebook out of various social networks capture the mind of people across the globe?

Facebook from Startup to the Facebook Election:

Facebook was modelled based on the traditional Facebooks of schools. Facebooks are the booklets consisting of students’ names, their photos, interests, and other related information. Here is a brief chronological sequence of events which took Facebook to the present status of popularity:

2004:

  • 2004 was the year when Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University thought of a social networking site that became known as “Facebook.”
  • The site was launched at first for students of Harvard University in February the same year. The Harvard undergraduates quickly adopted the site.
  • Later, the Facebook team opened the site for the registration of students at Boston-area colleges and other Ivy League universities. These universities include:
  • Columbia University
  • Brown University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Cornell University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale University
    • Facebook took the shape of business by the summer of 2004 and owned a California headquarters near Stanford University.

              2005:

              • Individual high schools, businesses, besides many United States (US) and international universities, joined Facebook.
              • Facebook continued growth and closed the year up with about 6 million members.

              2006:

              In September 2006, Facebook opened up to everyone.

              2007:

              The beginning of the smartphone era as the first iPhone launched in 2007, moved the Facebook into high gear.

              2008:

              Facebook achieved two significant milestones in 2008:

              • Won 100 million users
              • Got involved in a political advertisement when Barack Obama won the so-called “The Facebook Election.”

              Several media groups responded on Obama’s victory like:

              US News and World Report:

              “Obama enjoyed a groundswell of support among, for lack of a better term, the Facebook generation. He will be the first occupant of the White House to have won a presidential election on the Web.”

              The New York Times:

              “Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social networking applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns and get out the vote that helped them topple the Clinton machine and then John McCain and the Republicans.”

              The Guardian:

              “Facebook was not unaware of its suddenly powerful role in American electoral politics. During the presidential campaign, the site launched its forum to encourage online debates about voter issues. Facebook also teamed up with the major television network, ABC, for election coverage and political forums. Another old media outlet, CNN, teamed up with YouTube to hold presidential debates.”

              2009:

              Facebook was enjoying an apparent rise by the end of 2009 under the supervision of Mark Zuckerberg – the CEO of Facebook. He was then 25 years old. In other words, the emerging social platform was not only for kids then but was becoming mainstream among youth. Key achievements in this year were:

              • A double subscriber base of 350 million active users in December as compared to 150 million earlier in January
              • ‘Like’ button debut
              • @-tag your friends in posts and the comment section

              Other milestones of Facebook:

              Facebook achieved various other landmarks in the coming years, as highlighted below:

              2012:

              The initial public opening (IPO):

                Facebook thrived through the internet in 2004, but it took the financial world in 2012 after it launched an initial public opportunity (IPO) of stock. The company held IPO on Friday, May 18, 2012. At first, FB priced each of its shares at $38, reaching around $16 billion. Later, each share raised to $42.05, a gain of about 11% when FB started the actual trading. Indeed a good start, but then it had to bear a flop. Suddenly, the NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations), the world’s second-largest stock exchange, suffered some technical errors. As a result, a significant fall occurred in the overall market. So, FB had to end the day about the same at $38.23, where it began at 11:30 am ET (Eastern Time).

                 Why did NASDAQ fail?

                The failures at NASDAQ led to several investigations, legal proceedings, deals, and apologies that continued for years. But it became clear after many post-mortems on the IPO that NASDAQ was unable to handle a large Facebook market. That was one of the many reasons for NASDAQ failure at that time. The sale of 421.2 million shares by the company at its IPO turned it to the largest IPO ever at the moment. At present, Facebook’s IPO lies among the ten highest- value IPOs in the United States.

                Ars Technica’s story on Facebook stock drop:

                In August 2012, Facebook failed to hold its stock, and it dropped to about $18. Ars put the story on the stock drop as “Social media giant struggles to show that it can make money from mobile ads.” According to Ars,

                “Facebook has struggled in recent months to show that it can effectively make money on mobile devices-even though some analysts, in the wake of company’s adequate quarterly earnings report, said that they expected Facebook to turn things around.”

                Facebook, indeed, turned things around, and the flop went out of mind.

                Instagram:

                In April, Facebook announced that it would acquire Instagram, an active photo service, after a massive payment of $1 billion. The emerging photo service owned about 27 million iOS users and launched an app for Androids at that time. iOS is a mobile operating system. Apple Inc. developed iOS exclusively for its hardware. Different media groups shared the news as:

                Ars Technica:

                “Zuckerberg didn’t say how Facebook will make money on Instagram, which doesn’t yet have advertising.”

                But the most relevant and prescient headline was from TechCrunch, the tech business site.

                Techcrunch:

                “Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion, turns budding rival into its standalone photo app.”

                Instagram crossed the user line of 1 billion in 2018 and now presents a huge business site for advertisements. The site is cram full of “influencers,” who put legacy brands and new upstarts on sale. Instagram influencers turned the site entirely a business model, and various new companies are now selling their products related to fashion, lingerie, luggage and others.

                2013:

                Facebook’s acquisitions of 2013 were:

                Atlas:

                Facebook announced in 2013 that it would acquire “Atlas Advertiser Suite” from Microsoft in $100 million. The purpose of this acquisition was to track the effectiveness of online advertising in the physical world. Atlas users can narrow down the target audience as they desire. Facebook took up the desired data from Atlas and relaunched the program in 2014. The program promised “people-based marketing”- one can differentiate between marketing through a browser cookie or isolated social media profile.  It was also a cross-platform medium as Consumerist, part of CR Consumer Reports explained,

                “That’s a fancy way of saying that because your Facebook profile is still your Facebook profile no matter what computer or iPad or phone you’re using. Facebook can track your behaviour across all devices and let advertisers reach you on all of them.”

                But in 2017, Facebook announced to phase out Atlas, folding its measurement tools into Facebook Pixel – Facebook advertiser management tool.

                Onavo:

                Later in the year, Facebook acquired Onavo – an Israel-based mobile analytics startup by spending about $200 million. Onavo was known as a provider of mobile utility apps. Onavo also launched Onavo Insights which according to Business Insider is,

                “The first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data.”

                Onavo provided a virtual private network (VPN) called ‘Onavo Protect,’ which was one of its many mobile utilities. Onavo Protect was developed for the protection of online privacy and the maintenance of data security.

                In 2017, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) exposed that Onavo was redirecting all the web traffic through Facebook servers. The FB servers then filed the data and used it to fix the developing competition before it could burst into bloom.

                WSJ also noted that the data pinched from Onavo informed about the acquisition of Whatsapp by Facebook. WSJ reported,

                “Onavo showed [WhatsApp] was installed on 99 percent of all the Android phones in Spain-Showing WhatsApp was changing how an entire country communicated.”

                In 2018, Facebook confirmed to Congress what WSJ reported. Facebook admitted that it used the data that Onavo provided to analyze how the consumers use other mobile apps.

                Apple, in the same year, pulled Onavo from its app store, and later from Google Play. As a result, Facebook terminated the service in May of this year.

                The WSJ reported this year that Snapchat, Facebook’s competitor, had a case-study on Facebook’s lousy behaviour dubbed as “Project Voldemort.” The file recorded how Facebook used the Onavo data along with information from other sources in an attempt to undermine Snapchat’s business.

                2014:

                Whatsapp:

                  In 2014, Facebook purchased Whatsapp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app, for $19 billion.

                  The purpose of the acquisition was to enhance connectivity and utility by providing core internet services efficiently and at an affordable cost. Also, both companies would enjoy the accelerated growth and user engagement within them.

                  2016:

                  In 2016, the US presidential campaign season was a hot mess. Donald Trump won the presidential election eventually and inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Many factors contributed to Trump’s victory, one of them supposed to be great Russian interference. But millions of Americans felt this interference as fiction to divert attention from other concerns.

                  However, a few weeks after the election, the involvement of Russian actors in the US presidential elections was confirmed. US intelligence agencies were “confident” about the Russian hacks organized to influence the presidential election in the US.

                  Additionally, CNN – an American channel reported:

                  “There is also evidence that entities connected to the Russian government were bankrolling

                  “troll farms” that spread fake news about Clinton.”

                  In 2018, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a final report about the misuse of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by Russian Intelligence. The aim was to spread misinformation through social media to boost Donald Trump and his Republican Party in the 2016 election.

                  The Senate Intelligence Committee report said,

                  “Russia’s history of using social media as a lever for online influence operations predates the 2016 US presidential election and involves more than the IRA [Internet Research Agency]. The IRA’s operational planning for the 2016 election goes back at least to 2014 when two IRA operatives were sent to the United States to gather intelligence in furtherance of the IRA’s objectives.”

                  Special counsel Robert Muller investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election starting from 2017. After a two-year investigation, Muller submitted the final report in March 2019 to the Department of Justice.

                  According to Business Insider,

                  “Mueller’s team has charged eight Americans once affiliated with Trump’s campaign or administration, 13 Russian nationals, 12 Russian intelligence officers, three Russian companies, and two other people with federal crimes.”

                  As we move into 2020, some of the Russian interference cases are still in progress. Others have resulted either in plea deals or guilty findings.

                  Investigations of Cambridge Analytica scandal:

                  Facebook itself faced investigations in 2018 related to manipulation of user data during the presidential election campaign. Facebook particularly faced Cambridge Analytica scandal, where FB improperly shared information of about 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that worked for Trump’s presidential campaign. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated the scandal focusing on the possible violation by FB of 2011 settlement with FTC.

                  Recall that in 2011, the FTC said,

                  “Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”

                  2011 settlement’s charges were:

                  • All the Facebook privacy settings and information sharing would be “opt-in.” It means FB would get consumer’s consent before making changes in privacy settings.
                  • The company would have to face privacy audits in the coming decades.
                  • Finally, FB reached a settlement of $5 billion with FTC for Cambridge Analytica scandal.

                  Facebook also faced violations within the company itself. Alex Stamos, FB’s chief information security officer, clashed with other executives over the handling of Russian misinformation campaigns. As a result, he left the company in August 2018.

                  2019:

                  Facebook remained in the spotlight in 2019. The timeline of events is as follows:

                  March 8:

                  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) proposed a plan to break up Facebook, Google, and Amazon to regulate the companies as platform utilities. Warren’s proposal is the part of her policy to be run if she wins the presidency in 2020.

                  May 9:

                  The New York Times published a lengthy opinion editorial written by Chris Hughes – Facebook co-founder. He believed that Facebook has become so big that the company should eventually be broken up.

                  June 3:

                  The House antitrust Subcommittee announced an investigation of the growing power of the tech sector and its “abusive conduct.”

                  Also, different media outlets reported that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to investigate antitrust probes. FTC would investigate Google and Apple, while DOJ would handle the case of Facebook and Amazon.

                  July 24:

                  DOJ confirmed the launch of an antitrust probe into dominating online platforms. However, the department did not disclose the list of these platforms. The potential targets might include Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon.

                  July 25:

                  Facebook confirmed to be under investigation by the FTC.

                  September 6:

                  A coalition of states’ attorneys general announced to launch a joint antitrust probe of Facebook.

                  September 13:

                  The House Antitrust Subcommittee requested Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon to provide ten years’ worth record of acquisitions, competition, and other relevant matters for investigation.

                  September 25:

                  Media reported the probing of Facebook by DOJ.

                  October 22:

                  An additional 38 attorneys general joined the coalition on the joint antitrust probe of Facebook, making a total of 47. Also, Zuckerberg testified about Facebook before the House Financial Services Committee.

                  By the end of 2019, however, Facebook won 2.45 billion active users monthly under the charge of Mark Zuckerberg. He is now 35 years old. That is a small portion merely one-third of the total human population on the Earth. The number is still rising but at a slower speed than usual. Key stunning features of this year circle the ideas. For instance, “Prevention of hijacking democratic elections in other countries by bad nation-state actors.”

                  2020:

                  We are wrapping up the 2010s decade with Facebook under the jurisdiction of not only every US regulator but also those of Australia, Europe, and others. Meantime, another presidential election is coming forth and the start of the primary season of Iowa Democratic Caucus is a month or so behind. Iowa Caucus is an electoral event in the US state of Iowa, occurring every two years for the Republican and Democratic parties.

                  Facebook is trying to fix some of its mistakes. The company has promised to boost “election integrity efforts” for the 2020 US presidential election. The measures taken will help to prevent the foreign and domestic bad actors from misusing the network to affect the results. FB announced that the company would remove all the photos, posts, and other content that spread disinformation about the 2020 US census.

                  No doubt, targeting content misleading the people is a challenging task for the company. Although Facebook has acquired three different platforms, and each is enjoying more than 1 billion daily users, but still, the company has an appetite for further growth. As the company’s internal sources told BuzzFeed News:

                  “Facebook, the very word ‘impact’ is often defined by inner growth rather than obvious consequences.”

                  Conclusion:

                  “Facebook is too big to succeed,” an excuse that the company often makes for its failures. But in a real sense, it should be “Facebook is too big to fail.” Facebook still wants the scale over safety as all the changes in evaluation, compensation, and performance are for growth in number. However, the platform is strong enough to have a massive impact across the globe through its services. The company recently hinged its employees’ bonuses on “social progress.” That means how they tackle the misinformation and hate speech issues on the service.


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