Facebook, Inc.

Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
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Facebook – Introduction

Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.

The founders initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students. Later they expanded it to higher education institutions in the Boston area, the Ivy League schools, and Stanford University. Facebook gradually added support for students at various other universities, and eventually to high school students. Since 2006, anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook, though variations exist in this requirement, depending on local laws. The name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students. Facebook held its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012, and began selling stock to the public three months later, reaching an original peak market capitalization of $104 billion, a new record. Facebook makes most of its revenue from advertisements that appear onscreen.

Facebook can be accessed from a large range of devices with Internet connectivity, such as desktop computers, laptops and tabletcomputers, and smartphones. After registering, users can create a customized profile indicating their name, occupation, schools attended and so on. Users can add other users as “friends”, exchange messages, post status updates, share photos, videos and links, use various software applications (“apps”), and receive notifications of other users’ activity. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups organized by workplace, school, hobbies or other topics, and categorize their friends into lists such as “People From Work” or “Close Friends”. Additionally, users can report or block unpleasant people.

Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users as of January 2018. Its popularity has led to prominent media coverage for the company, including significant scrutiny over privacy and the psychological effects it has on users. In recent years, the company has faced intense pressure over the amount of fake news, hate speech and depictions of violence prevalent on its services, all of which it is attempting to counteract.

Facebook – The Beginning

Zuckerberg wrote a program called “Facemash” in 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”. Facemash attracted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online. The Facemash site was quickly forwarded to several campus group list-servers, 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 historyfinal exam. He uploaded all art images to a website, each of which was featured with a corresponding comments section, then shared the site with his classmates, and people started sharing notes.

A “face book” is a student directory featuring photos and basic information. In 2003, there were no universal online facebooks at Harvard, with only paper sheets distributedand private online directories.  Zuckerberg told the Crimson that “Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard. […] I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week.”In January 2004, Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website, known as “TheFacebook”, with the inspiration coming from an editorial in the Crimson about Facemash, stating that “It is clear that the technology needed to create a centralized Website is readily available … the benefits are many.” On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “TheFacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com.

Six days after the site launched, Harvard seniors Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra accused Zuckerberg of intentionally misleading them into believing that 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, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes joined Zuckerberg to help manage the growth of 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, Washington and gradually most universities in the United States and Canada.

In mid-2004, entrepreneur Sean Parker—an informal advisor to Zuckerberg—became the company’s president.In June 2004, Facebook moved its operations base to Palo Alto, California. It received its first investment later that month from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. In 2005, the company dropped “the” from its name after purchasing the domain name facebook.com for US$200,000. The domain facebook.com belonged to AboutFace Corporation before the purchase. This website last appeared on April 8, 2005; from April 10, 2005 to August 4, 2005, this domain gave a 403 error.

In May 2005, Accel Partners invested $12.7 million in Facebook, and Jim Breyer added $1 million of his own money. A high-school version of the site was launched in September 2005, which Zuckerberg called the next logical step. (At the time, high-school networks required an invitation to join.) Facebook also expanded membership eligibility to employees of several companies, including Apple Inc.and Microsoft.

 

Facebook – Public access, Microsoft alliance and rapid growth

 

On September 26, 2006, Facebook was opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address.[31][32][33] In late 2007, Facebook had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers). These started as group pages, but a new concept called company pages was planned.[34] Pages began rolling out for businesses in May 2009.[35] On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a total implied value of around $15 billion. Microsoft’s purchase included rights to place international advertisements on the social networking site.[36][37]

In October 2008, Facebook announced that it would set up its international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.[38] Almost a year later, in September 2009, Facebook said that it had turned cash flow positive for the first time.[39] A January 2009 Compete.com study ranked Facebook the most used social networking service by worldwide monthly active users.[40] Entertainment Weekly included the site on its end-of-the-decade “best-of” list saying, “How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers’ birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabulous before Facebook?”[41]

Traffic to Facebook increased steadily after 2009. The company announced 500 million users in July 2010,[42] and according to its data, half of the site’s membership used Facebook daily, for an average of 34 minutes, while 150 million users accessed the site by mobile. A company representative called the milestone a “quiet revolution.”[43] In November 2010, based on SecondMarket Inc. (an exchange for privately held companies’ shares), Facebook’s value was $41 billion. The company had slightly surpassed eBay to become the third largest American web company after Google and Amazon.com.[44][45]

In early 2011, Facebook announced plans to move its headquarters to the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park, California.[46][47] In March 2011, it was reported that Facebook was removing approximately 20,000 profiles every day for violations such as spam, graphic content, and underage use, as part of its efforts to boost cyber security.[48]Statistics by DoubleClick showed that Facebook reached one trillion page views in the month of June 2011, making it the most visited website tracked by DoubleClick.[49][50]According to a Nielsen study, Facebook had in 2011 become the second-most accessed website in the U.S. behind Google.

 

 

Facebook – IPO, lawsuits and one-billionth user

Facebook eventually filed for an initial public offering on February 1, 2012.[53] Facebook held an initial public offering on May 17, 2012, negotiating a share price of US$38. The company was valued at $104 billion, the largest valuation to date for a newly listed public company.[54][55][56] Facebook began selling stock to the public and trading on the NASDAQon May 18, 2012.[57] Based on its 2012 income of $5 billion, Facebook joined the Fortune 500 list for the first time in May 2013, ranked in position 462.[58]

Facebook filed their S1 document with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 1, 2012. The company applied for a $5 billion IPO, one of the biggest offerings in the history of technology.[59] The IPO raised $16 billion, making it the third-largest in U.S. history.[60][61]

The shares began trading on May 18; the stock struggled to stay above the IPO price for most of the day, but set a record for the trading volume of an IPO (460 million shares).[62]The first day of trading was marred by technical glitches that prevented orders from going through;[63][64] only the technical problems and artificial support from underwriters prevented the stock price from falling below the IPO price on the day.[65] In March 2012, Facebook announced App Center, a store selling applications that operate via the website. The store was to be available on iPhonesAndroid devices, and mobile web users.

On May 22, 2012, the Yahoo! Finance website reported that Facebook’s lead underwriters, Morgan Stanley (MS), JP Morgan (JPM), and Goldman Sachs (GS), cut their earnings forecasts for the company in the middle of the IPO process.[67] The stock had begun its freefall by this time, closing at 34.03 on May 21 and 31.00 on May 22. A “circuit breaker” trading curb was used in an attempt to slow down the stock price’s decline.[68] Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Chairman Rick Ketchum, called for a review of the circumstances surrounding the IPO.[69]

Facebook’s IPO was consequently investigated, and was compared to a “pump and dump” scheme.[63][67][69][70] A class-action lawsuit was filed in May 2012 because of the trading glitches, which led to botched orders.[71][72] Lawsuits were filed, alleging that an underwriter for Morgan Stanley selectively revealed adjusted earnings estimates to preferred clients.[73]

The other underwriters (MS, JPM, GS), Facebook’s CEO and board, and NASDAQ also faced litigation after numerous lawsuits were filed, while SEC and FINRA both launched investigations.[74] It was believed that adjustments to earnings estimates were communicated to the underwriters by a Facebook financial officer, who used the information to cash out on their positions while leaving the general public with overpriced shares.[75] By the end of May 2012, Facebook’s stock lost over a quarter of its starting value, which led The Wall Street Journal to label the IPO a “fiasco”.[76] Zuckerberg announced to the media at the start of October 2012 that Facebook had passed the monthly active users mark of one billion.[77] The company’s data also revealed 600 million mobile users, 219 billion photo uploads, and 140 billion friend connections.

 

 

Facebook – Site developments, A4AI and 10th anniversary

On January 15, 2013, Facebook announced Facebook Graph Search, which provides users with a “precise answer”, rather than a link to an answer by leveraging the data present on its site.[79] Facebook emphasized that the feature would be “privacy-aware,” returning only results from content already shared with the user.[80] On April 3, 2013, Facebook unveiled Facebook Home, a user-interface layer for Android devices offering greater integration with the site. HTC announced the HTC First, a smartphone with Home pre-loaded.[81]

On April 15, 2013, Facebook announced an alliance across 19 states with the National Association of Attorneys General, to provide teenagers and parents with information on tools to manage social networking profiles.[82] On April 19, 2013, Facebook officially modified its logo to remove the faint blue line at the bottom of the “F” icon. The letter F moved closer to the edge of the box.[83]

Following a campaign by 100 advocacy groups, Facebook agreed to update its policy on hate speech. The campaign highlighted content promoting domestic and sexual violence against women, and used over 57,000 tweets and more than 4,900 emails that caused withdrawal of advertising from the site by 15 companies, including Nissan UK, House of Burlesque and Nationwide UK. The social media website initially responded by stating that “while it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies”.[84] It decided to take action on May 29, 2013, after it “become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate.”[85]

On June 12, 2013, Facebook announced on its newsroom that it was introducing clickable hashtags to help users follow trending discussions, or search what others are talking about on a topic.[86] A July 2013 Wall Street Journal article identified the Facebook IPO as the cause of a change in the U.S.’ national economic statistics, as the local government area of the company’s headquarters, San Mateo County, California, became the top wage-earning county in the country after the fourth quarter of 2012. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average weekly wage in the county was US$3,240, 107% higher than the previous year. It noted the wages were “the equivalent of $168,000 a year, and more than 50% higher than the next-highest county, New York County (better known as Manhattan), at $2,107 a week, or roughly $110,000 a year.”[87]

Facebook was blocked by the Chinese government in 2009.[88] In September 2013, the South China Morning Post announced that the block would lifted in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone “to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone.”[89][90] However, a few days later, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, dismissed the earlier report, reiterating the block on Facebook.[91]

Facebook was announced as a member of The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in October 2013, when the A4AI was launched. The A4AI is a coalition of public and private organizations that includes GoogleIntel and Microsoft. Led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the A4AI seeks to make Internet access more affordable so that access is broadened in the developing world, where only 31% of people are online. Google will help to decrease Internet access prices so that they fall below the UN Broadband Commission’s worldwide target of 5% of monthly income.[92] A Reuters report, published on December 11, 2013, stated that Standard & Poor’s announced the placement of Facebook on its S&P 500 index “after the close of trading on December 20”.[93] Facebook announced Q4 2013 earnings of $523 million (20 cents per share), an increase of $64 million from the previous year,[94] as well as 945 million mobile users.

The company celebrated its 10th anniversary during the week of February 3, 2014.[96] In each of the first three months of 2014, over one billion users logged into their Facebook account on a mobile device.[97] As part of the company’s second quarter results, Facebook announced in late July 2014 that mobile accounted for 62% of its advertising revenue, which is an increase of 21% from the previous year.[98]By September 2014, Facebook’s market capitalization had risen to over $200 billion.[99][100][101]

Alongside other American technology figures like Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, Zuckerberg hosted visiting Chinese politician Lu Wei, known as the “Internet czar” for his influence in the enforcement of China’s online policy, at Facebook’s headquarters on December 8, 2014. The meeting occurred after Zuckerberg participated in a Q&A session at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, on October 23, 2014, where he attempted to converse in Mandarin—although Facebook is banned in China, Zuckerberg is highly regarded among the people and was at the university to help fuel the nation’s burgeoning entrepreneur sector.[102] A book of Chinese president Xi Jinping found on Zuckerberg’s office desk attracted a great deal of attention in the media, after the Facebook founder explained to Lu, “I want them [Facebook staff] to understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”[103]

As of January 21, 2015, Facebook’s algorithm is programmed to filter out false or misleading content, such as fake news stories and hoaxes, and will be supported by users who select the option to flag a story as “purposefully fake or deceitful news”. According to Reuters, such content is “being spread like a wildfire” on the social media platform. Facebook maintained that “satirical” content, “intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire,” will be taken into account and should not be intercepted.[104] The algorithm, however, has been accused of maintaining a “filter bubble“, where both material the user disagrees with[105] and posts with a low level of likes, will also not be seen.[106] In November 2015, Zuckerberg prolonged period of paternity leave from 4 weeks to 4 months.[107]

On April 12, 2016, Zuckerberg revealed a decade-long plan for Facebook in a keynote address. His speech outlined his vision, which rested on three main pillars: artificial intelligence, increased connectivity around the world and virtual and augmented reality.[108] In June 2016 Facebook announced Deep Text, a natural language processing AI which will learn user intent and context in 20 languages.[109]

In July 2016, a US$1 billion lawsuit was filed against the company alleging that it permitted the Hamas group to use it to perform assaults that ended the lives of four people.[110]Facebook released the blueprints of Surround 360 camera on GitHub under open-source license.[111] In September 2016, it won an Emmy for its Visual animated short “Henry”.[112]

In October 2016, Facebook announced a fee-based communications tool called Workplace that aims to “connect everyone” while at work. Users can create profiles, see updates from co-workers on their news feed, stream live video and participate in secure group chats.[113] Facebook annually has an Oculus Connect conference.[114] Following the 2016 presidential election, Facebook announced that it would further combat the spread of fake news by using fact checkers from sites like FactCheck.org and Associated Press (AP), making reporting hoaxes easier through crowdsourcing, and disrupting financial incentives for spammers.[115]

On January 17, 2017, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg planning to open Station F, a startup incubator campus in Paris, France.[116] On a six-monthly cycle, Facebook will work with ten to 15 data-driven startups in the location to help them develop their businesses.[117] On April 18, 2017, Facebook announced the beta launch of Facebook Spaces at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference in San Francisco.[118] Facebook Spaces, a virtual reality app version of Facebook for the Facebook-owned Oculus VR goggles. In a virtual and shared space, users can access a curated selection of 360-degree photos and videos using their avatar, with the support of the controller. Users can also access their own photos and videos, and any media shared on their Facebook newsfeed.[119] The beta app is currently available in the Oculus Store.[120]

In September 2017, Facebook announced it would be spending up to US$1 billion on original shows for its Facebook Watch platform.[121] On October 16, 2017, Facebook acquired the anonymous compliment social media app tbh for an undisclosed amount, announcing intentions to leave the app independent, similar to Instagram and WhatsApp.[122][123][124][125](although it is not core or important as these other[126])

 

 

Facebook – Corporate Affairs

Facebook’s key management personnel consists of Mark Zuckerberg (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer), Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer), David Wehner (Chief Financial Officer), Mike Schroepfer (Chief Technology Officer), and Chris Cox (Chief Product Officer).[127] As of June 30, 2017, Facebook has 20,658 employees.

 

 

Facebook – Revenue

Most of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising.[139][140] Facebook generally has a lower clickthrough rate (CTR) for advertisements than most major websites. According to BusinessWeek.com, banner advertisements on Facebook have generally received one-fifth the number of clicks compared to those on the Web as a whole,[141] although specific comparisons can reveal a much larger disparity. For example, while Google users click on the first advertisement for search results an average of 8% of the time (80,000 clicks for every one million searches),[142]Facebook’s users click on advertisements an average of 0.04% of the time (400 clicks for every one million pages).[143] Successful advertising campaigns on the site can have clickthrough rates as low as 0.05% to 0.04%, and CTR for ads tend to fall within two weeks.[144]

The cause of Facebook’s low CTR has been attributed to younger users enabling ad blocking software and their adeptness at ignoring advertising messages, as well as the site’s primary purpose being social communication rather than content viewing.[145] According to digital consultancy iStrategy Labs in mid-January 2014, three million fewer users aged between 13 and 17 years were present on Facebook’s Social Advertising platform compared to 2011.[146] However, Time writer and reporter Christopher Matthews stated in the wake of the iStrategy Labs results:

A big part of Facebook’s pitch is that it has so much information about its users that it can more effectively target ads to those who will be responsive to the content. If Facebook can prove that theory to be true, then it may not worry so much about losing its cool cachet.[147][148]

A portion of Facebook revenue comes from the “firehose” access, bulk access to the social media data sold to the third parties.[149][150] In December 2014, a report from Frank N. Magid and Associates found that the percentage of teens aged 13 to 17 who used Facebook fell to 88% in 2014, down from 94% in 2013 and 95% in 2012.[151] Zuckerberg, alongside other Facebook executives, have questioned the data in such reports; although, a former Facebook senior employee has commented: “Mark [Zuckerberg] is very willing to recognize the strengths in other products and the flaws in Facebook.”[152]

On pages for brands and products, however, some companies have reported CTR as high as 6.49% for Wall posts.[153] A study found that, for video advertisements on Facebook, over 40% of users who viewed the videos viewed the entire video, while the industry average was 25% for in-banner video ads.[154]

Chart of Facebook’s stock

The company released its own set of revenue data at the end of January 2014 and claimed: Revenues of US$2.59 billion were generated for the three months ending December 31, 2013; earnings per share were 31 cents; revenues of US$7.87 billion were made for the entirety of 2013; and Facebook’s annual profit for 2013 was US$1.5 billion. During the same time, independent market research firm eMarketerreleased data in which Facebook accounted for 5.7 per cent of all global digital ad revenues in 2013 (Google’s share was 32.4 per cent).[96]Revenue for the June 2014 quarter rose to $2.68 billion, an increase of 67 per cent over the second quarter of 2013. Mobile advertising revenue accounted for around 62 per cent of advertising revenue, an increase of approximately 41 per cent over the comparable quarter of the previous year. In December 2017, the company announced that it would no longer route all of its revenues through its Ireland headquarters, but rather record revenue locally in each of the countries where it is generated

 

 

Facebook – Number of Advertisers

In February 2015, Facebook announced that it had reached two million active advertisers with most of the gain coming from small businesses. An active advertiser is an advertiser that has advertised on the Facebook platform in the last 28 days.[157] In March 2016, Facebook announced that it reached three million active advertisers with more than 70% from outside the US

 

Facebook –Mergers and acquisitions

On November 15, 2010, Facebook announced it had acquired the domain name fb.com from the American Farm Bureau Federation for an undisclosed amount. On January 11, 2011, the Farm Bureau disclosed $8.5 million in “domain sales income”, making the acquisition of FB.com one of the ten highest domain sales in history.[159]

In February 2014, Facebook announced that it would be buying mobile messaging company WhatsApp for US$19 billion in cash and stock.[160][161]

In November 2016 Facebook acquired CrowdTangle, a social analytics company that tracks how content spreads online. CrowdTangle confirmed the acquisition in a message at their website, but company didn’t disclosed financial terms of the deal

 

 

Facebook – Offices

In early 2011, Facebook announced plans to move to its new headquarters, the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park.[163] All users outside of the US and Canada have a contract with Facebook’s Irish subsidiary “Facebook Ireland Limited”. This allows Facebook to avoid US taxes for all users in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Facebook is making use of the Double Irish arrangement which allows it to pay just about 2–3% corporation tax on all international revenue.[164] In 2010, Facebook opened its fourth office, in Hyderabad[165][166][167] and the first in Asia.[168]

Facebook, which in 2010 had more than 750 million active users globally including over 23 million in India, announced that its Hyderabad center would house online advertising and developer support teams and provide round-the-clock, multilingual support to the social networking site’s users and advertisers globally.[169] With this, Facebook joins other giants like GoogleMicrosoftOracleDellIBM and Computer Associates that have already set up shop.[170] In Hyderabad, it is registered as ‘Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd’.[171][172][173]

Though Facebook did not specify its India investment or hiring figures, it said recruitment had already begun for a director of operations and other key positions at Hyderabad,[174]which would supplement its operations in CaliforniaDublin in Ireland as well as at AustinTexas. A custom-built data center with substantially reduced (“38% less”) power consumption compared to existing Facebook data centers opened in April 2011 in Prineville, Oregon.[175] In April 2012, Facebook opened a second data center in Forest City, North Carolina, US.[176] In June 2013, Facebook opened a third data center in Luleå, Sweden. In November 2014, Facebook opened a fourth data center in Altoona, Iowa, US.[177] In September 2016, Facebook announced a coming datacenter in Los Lunas, New Mexico in 2018 powered by renewable energy.[178][179]

On October 1, 2012, CEO Zuckerberg visited Moscow to stimulate social media innovation in Russia and to boost Facebook’s position in the Russian market.[180] Russia’s communications minister tweeted that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev urged the social media giant’s founder to abandon plans to lure away Russian programmers and instead consider opening a research center in Moscow. Facebook has roughly 9 million users in Russia, while domestic analogue VK has around 34 million.[181]

The establishment of a woodworking facility on the Menlo Park campus was announced at the end of August 2013. The facility, opened in June 2013, provides equipment, safety courses and a woodworking learning course. Employees are required to purchase materials at the in-house store. A Facebook spokesperson explained that the intention of setting up the facility is to encourage employees to think in an innovative manner because of the different environment; it also serves as an attractive perk for prospective employees.[182] On November 21, 2016 Facebook announced that it will open its new London headquarters next year and create another 500 jobs in the UK. New headquarters will be in Fitzrovia in central London at a site that is currently undergoing redevelopment. Facebook’s London-based executive, Nicola Mendelsohn said “The UK remains one of the best places to be a tech company,”.[183] In August 2017, Facebook announced the opening of a new office in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2018. Facebook will occupy the top three floors of 100 Binney St in Kendall Square and share the building with the pharmaceutical employees from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The offices will be home to Facebook’s “Connectivity Lab”, a group focused on bringing Internet access and technology to 4 billion people who do not have access to the Internet

 

Facebook – Website

The website’s primary color is blue as Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind, a realization that occurred after a test undertaken around 2007; he explained in 2010: “blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.”[185][186] Facebook is built in PHP which is compiled with HipHop for PHP, a ‘source code transformer’ built by Facebook engineers that turns PHP into C++.[187] The deployment of HipHop reportedly reduced average CPU consumption on Facebook servers by 50%.[188]

Facebook is developed as one monolithic application. According to an interview in 2012 with Chuck Rossi, a build engineer at Facebook, Facebook compiles into a 1.5 GB binary blob which is then distributed to the servers using a custom BitTorrent-based release system. Rossi stated that it takes approximately 15 minutes to build and 15 minutes to release to the servers. The build and release process is zero downtime and new changes to Facebook are rolled out daily.[188]

Facebook uses a combination platform based on HBase to store data across distributed machines. Using a tailing architecture, new events are stored in log files, and the logs are tailed. The system rolls these events up and writes them into storage. The user interface then pulls the data out and displays it to users. Facebook handles requests as AJAX behavior. These requests are written to a log file using Scribe(developed by Facebook).[189]

Data is read from these log files using Ptail, an internally built tool to aggregate data from multiple Scribe stores. It tails the log files and pulls data out (thus the name). Ptail data are separated out into three streams so they can eventually be sent to their own clusters in different data centers (Plugin impression, News feed impressions, Actions (plugin + news feed)). Puma is used to manage periods of high data flow (Input/Output or IO). Data is processed in batches to lessen the number of times needed to read and write under high demand periods (A hot article will generate a lot of impressions and news feed impressions which will cause huge data skews). Batches are taken every 1.5 seconds, limited by memory used when creating a hash table.[189]

After this, data is output in PHP format (compiled with HipHop for PHP). The backend is written in Java and Thrift is used as the messaging format so PHP programs can query Java services. Caching solutions are used to make the web pages display more quickly. The more and longer data is cached the less realtime it is. The data is then sent to MapReduceservers so it can be queried via Hive. This also serves as a backup plan as the data can be recovered from Hive. Raw logs are removed after a period of time.[189]

On March 20, 2014, Facebook announced a new open source programming language called Hack. Prior to public release, a large portion of Facebook was already running and “battle tested” using the new language.[190]

Facebook uses the Momentum platform from Message Systems to deliver the enormous volume of emails it sends to its users every day.[191]

History

On July 20, 2008, Facebook introduced “Facebook Beta”, a significant redesign of its user interface on selected networks. The Mini-Feed and Wall were consolidated, profiles were separated into tabbed sections, and an effort was made to create a “cleaner” look.[192] After initially giving users a choice to switch, Facebook began migrating all users to the new version starting in September 2008.[193] On December 11, 2008, it was announced that Facebook was testing a simpler signup process.[194]

User profile/personal timeline

Facebook login/signup screen

Each registered user on Facebook gets their own personal profile that shows their posts and content.[195] The format of individual user pages was revamped in September 2011 and became known as “Timeline”, a chronological feed of a user’s stories,[196][197] including status updates, photos, interactions with apps, and events.[198] The new layout also let users add a “cover photo”, a large header image at the top of the Timeline.[198] Along with the new layout, users were also given more privacy settings to control the content on the Timeline.[198] In 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Pages for brands and celebrities to interact with their fanbase,[199][200] with more 100,000 Pages launched in November.[201] In June 2009, Facebook introduced a “Usernames” feature, allowing users to choose a unique nickname used in the URL for their personal profile, for easier sharing.[202][203]

In February 2014, Facebook expanded the options for a user’s gender setting, adding a custom input field that allows users to choose from a wide range of gender identities. Users can also set which set of gender-specific pronoun should be used in reference to them throughout the site.[204][205][206] In May 2014, Facebook introduced a feature to allow users to ask for information not disclosed by other users on their profiles. If a user does not provide key information, such as location, hometown, or relationship status, other users can use a new “ask” button to send a message asking about that item to the user in a single click.[207][208]

News Feed

On September 6, 2006, News Feed was announced, which appears on every user’s homepage and highlights information including profile changes, upcoming events, and birthdays of the user’s friends.[209] This enabled spammers and other users to manipulate these features by creating illegitimate events or posting fake birthdays to attract attention to their profile or cause.[210] Initially, the News Feed caused dissatisfaction among Facebook users; some complained it was too cluttered and full of undesired information, others were concerned that it made it too easy for others to track individual activities (such as relationship status changes, events, and conversations with other users).[211] In response, Zuckerberg issued an apology for the site’s failure to include appropriate customizable privacy features. Since then, users have been able to control what types of information are shared automatically with friends. Users are now able to prevent user-set categories of friends from seeing updates about certain types of activities, including profile changes, Wall posts, and newly added friends.[212]

On February 23, 2010, Facebook was granted a patent[213] on certain aspects of its News Feed. The patent covers News Feeds in which links are provided so that one user can participate in the same activity of another user.[214] The patent may encourage Facebook to pursue action against websites that violate its patent, which may potentially include websites such as Twitter.[215] One of the most popular applications on Facebook is the Photos application, where users can upload albums and photos.[216] Facebook allows users to upload an unlimited number of photos, compared with other image hosting services such as Photobucket and Flickr, which apply limits to the number of photos that a user is allowed to upload. During the first years, Facebook users were limited to 60 photos per album. As of May 2009, this limit has been increased to 200 photos per album.[217][218][219][220]

Privacy settings can be set for individual albums, limiting the groups of users that can see an album. For example, the privacy of an album can be set so that only the user’s friends can see the album, while the privacy of another album can be set so that all Facebook users can see it. Another feature of the Photos application is the ability to “tag“, or label, users in a photo. For instance, if a photo contains a user’s friend, then the user can tag the friend in the photo. This sends a notification to the friend that she has been tagged, and provides a link to see the photo.[221] On June 7, 2012, Facebook launched its App Center to its users. It will help the users in finding games and other applications with ease.[222] Since the launch of the App Center, Facebook has seen 150M monthly users with 2.4 times the installation of apps.[223] The sorting and display of stories in a user’s News Feed is governed by the EdgeRank algorithm.[224]

On May 13, 2015, Facebook in association with major news portals launched a program “Instant Articles” to provide rich news experience. Instant articles provides users, access to articles on Facebook news feed without leaving the site.[225][226] According to the technology news web site Gizmodo on May 9, 2016, Facebook curators routinely suppress or promote news that is deemed to meet a political agenda. For example, articles about Black Lives Matter would be listed even if they did not meet the trending criteria of News Feed. Likewise positive news about conservative political figures were regularly excised from Facebook pages.[227] In January 2017, Facebook launched Facebook Stories for iOS and Android in Ireland. The feature, following the format of Snapchat and Instagram stories, allows users to upload photos and videos that appear above friends’ and followers’ News Feeds and disappear after 24 hours.[228]

On October 11, 2017, Facebook introduced the 3D Posts feature to allow for uploading interactive 3D assets in the News Feed.[229] On January 11, 2018, Facebook announced that it would be changing its News Feed algorithm to prioritize what friends and family share and de-emphasize content from media companies. The change was intended to maximize the “meaningful interactions” that people have with content on Facebook.[230]

Like button

The “like” button, stylized as a “thumbs up” icon, was first enabled on February 9, 2009,[231] and enables users to easily interact with status updates, comments, photos and videos, links shared by friends, and advertisements. Once clicked by a user, the designated content appears in the News Feeds of that user’s friends,[232][233] and the button also displays the number of other users who have liked the content, including a full or partial list of those users.[234] The like button was extended to comments in June 2010.[235] After extensive testing[236] and years of questions from the public about whether it had an intention to incorporate a “Dislike” button,[237] Facebook officially rolled out “Reactions” to users worldwide on February 24, 2016, letting users long-press on the like button for an option to use one of five pre-defined emotions, including “Love”, “Haha”, “Wow”, “Sad”, or “Angry”.[236][238]Reactions were also extended to comments in May 2017.[239][240]

Instant messaging

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging service and software application. Originally developed as Facebook Chat in 2008,[241] the company revamped its messaging service in 2010,[242] and subsequently released standalone iOS and Android apps in August 2011.[243] Over the years, Facebook has released new apps on a variety of different operating systems,[244][245][246] launched a dedicated website interface,[247] and separated the messaging functionality from the main Facebook app, requiring users to download the standalone apps.[248]

Facebook Messenger lets Facebook users send messages to each other. Complementing regular conversations, Messenger lets users make voice calls[249] and video calls[250] both in one-to-one interactions[251] and in group conversations.[252] Its Android app has integrated support for SMS[253] and “Chat Heads”, which are round profile photo icons appearing on-screen regardless of what app is open,[254] while both apps support multiple accounts,[255] conversations with optional end-to-end encryption,[256] and playing “Instant Games”, which are select games built into Messenger.[257] Some features, including sending money[258] and requesting transportation,[259] are limited to the United States.[258] In 2017, Facebook has added “Messenger Day”, a feature that lets users share photos and videos in a story-format with all their friends with the content disappearing after 24 hours;[260]Reactions, which lets users tap and hold a message to add a reaction through an emoji;[261] and Mentions, which lets users in group conversations type @ to give a particular user a notification.[261]

In March 2015, Facebook announced that it would start letting businesses and users interact through Messenger with features such as tracking purchases and receiving notifications, and interacting with customer service representatives. It also announced that third-party developers could integrate their apps into Messenger, letting users enter an app while inside Messenger and optionally share details from the app into a chat.[262] In April 2016, it introduced an API for developers to build chatbots into Messenger, for uses such as news publishers building bots to give users news through the service,[263] and in April 2017, it enabled the M virtual assistant for users in the U.S., which scans chats for keywords and suggests relevant actions, such as its payments system for users mentioning money.[264][265] Additionally, Facebook expanded the use of bots, incorporating group chatbots into Messenger as “Chat Extensions”, adding a “Discovery” tab for finding bots, and enabling special, branded QR codes that, when scanned, take the user to a specific bot.[266]

Following

On September 14, 2011, Facebook added the ability for users to provide a “Subscribe” button on their page, which allows users to subscribe to public postings by the user without needing to add him or her as a friend.[267] In conjunction, Facebook also introduced a system in February 2012 to verify the identity of certain accounts.[268] In December 2012, Facebook announced that because of user confusion surrounding its function, the Subscribe button would be re-labeled as a “Follow” button—making it more similar to other social networks with similar functions.[269]

Comparison with Myspace

The media often compares Facebook to Myspace, but one significant difference between the two Web sites is the level of customization.[270] Another difference is Facebook’s requirement that users give their true identity, a demand that MySpace does not make.[271] MySpace allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and Cascading Style Sheets(CSS), while Facebook allows only plain text.[272] Facebook has a number of features with which users may interact. They include the Wall, a space on every user’s profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see;[273] Pokes, which allows users to send a virtual “poke” to each other (a notification then tells a user that he or she has been poked);[274] Photos, that allows users to upload albums and photos;[275] and Status, which allows users to inform their friends of their whereabouts and actions.[276] Facebook also allows users to tag various people in photographs. Depending on privacy settings, anyone who can see a user’s profile can also view that user’s Wall. In July 2007, Facebook began allowing users to post attachments to the Wall, whereas the Wall was previously limited to textual content only.[273] Facebook also differs from Myspace in the form of advertising used. Facebook uses advertising in the form of banner ads, referral marketing, and games. Myspace, on the other hand, uses Google and AdSense.[277] There is also a difference in the userbase of each site. MySpace, initially, was much more popular with high school students, while Facebook was more popular among college students. A study by the American firm Nielsen Claritas showed that Facebook users are more inclined to use other professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, than Myspace users.[277]

Privacy

PRISM: a clandestine surveillanceprogram under which the NSA collects user data from companies like Facebook and Yahoo!.[278]

Facebook enables users to choose their own privacy settings and choose who can see specific parts of their profile.[279] The website is free to its users and generates revenue from advertising, such as banner ads.[280] Facebook requires a user’s name and profile picture (if applicable) to be accessible by everyone. Users can control who sees other information they have shared, as well as who can find them in searches, through their privacy settings.[281] On November 6, 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Beacon, which was a part of Facebook’s advertisement system until it was discontinued in 2009. Its purpose was to allow targeted advertisements and allowing users to share their activities with their friends.

In 2010, Facebook’s security team began expanding its efforts to reduce the risks to users’ privacy,[282] but privacy concerns remain.[283]Since 2010, the US National Security Agency has been taking publicly posted profile information from Facebook, among other social media services, user profiles to discover who they interact with.[284]

On November 29, 2011, Facebook settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by failing to keep privacy promises.[285] In August 2013 High-Tech Bridge published a study showing that links included in Facebook messaging service messages were being accessed by Facebook.[286] In January 2014 two users filed a lawsuit against Facebook alleging that their privacy had been violated by this practice.[287]

In April 2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, and refuting a report to the contrary by Reuters, Mark Zuckerburg announced that Facebook would implement additional privacy “controls and settings” worldwide. These settings were originally intended for deployment in Europe in order to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which take effect in May.

In the aftermath of the breach, Facebook withdrew its opposition to the California Consumer Privacy Act. Facebook, Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon had previously donated $200,000 each to a $1 million fund dedicated to opposing of the ballot measure. The Committee to Protect California jobs, which opposed the ballot question and is sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce told Ars Technica that “”Facebook has NOT dropped its opposition to the measure”. According to the Committee Facebook “simply formally dropped their participation in the ‘no’ campaign.”

Facebook Bug Bounty Program

A Facebook “White Hat” debit card, given to researchers who report security bugs.

On July 29, 2011, Facebook announced its Bug Bounty Program in which security researchers will be paid a minimum of $500 for reporting security holes on Facebook’s website. Facebook’s Whitehat page for security researchers says: “If you give us a reasonable time to respond to your report before making any information public and make a good faith effort to avoid privacy violations, destruction of data, and interruption or degradation of our service during your research, we will not bring any lawsuit against you or ask law enforcement to investigate you.”

Facebook started paying researchers who find and report security bugs by issuing them custom branded “White Hat” debit cards that can be reloaded with funds each time the researchers discover new flaws. “Researchers who find bugs and security improvements are rare, and we value them and have to find ways to reward them,” Ryan McGeehan, former manager of Facebook’s security response team, told CNET in an interview. “Having this exclusive black card is another way to recognize them. They can show up at a conference and show this card and say ‘I did special work for Facebook.'”

India, which has the second largest number of bug hunters in the world, tops the Facebook Bug Bounty Program with the largest number of valid bugs. “Researchers in Russia earned the highest amount per report in 2013, receiving an average of $3,961 for 38 bugs. India contributed the largest number of valid bugs at 136, with an average reward of $1,353. The U.S. reported 92 issues and averaged $2,272 in rewards. Brazil and the UK were third and fourth by volume, with 53 bugs and 40 bugs, respectively, and average rewards of $3,792 and $2,950”, Facebook quoted in a post.

 

 

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