Happy 15th Birthday Facebook! A timeline of the highs and lows

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Facebook has had a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows in its 15-year history, with big acquisitions among its good days and data scandals amid the bad.

Here is a rundown of the social network’s most notable moments:

The launch

Facebook first launched on February 4, 2004 as a social network known as TheFacebook, initially aimed at students at Harvard College, before gradually expanding to other universities across the US.

In 2005, The was dropped from the name, paving the way for facebook.com and by September 2006 the site was opened up to anyone aged 13 or over.

Stolen idea accusations

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg found himself accused of stealing the idea of fellow Harvard students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, who claimed that Zuckerberg was meant to help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.

A lawsuit was filed against Zuckerberg, resulting in a settlement in 2008, which was dramatised in the movie The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg.

Facebook
Facebook (Niall Carson/PA)

Facebook goes public

In May 2012, Facebook went public, marking one of the largest initial public offerings (IPOs) in US history.

The company announced 421,233,615 shares priced at 38 dollars per share, though the first day of trading experienced some technical issues that prevented some orders from going through.

Instagram buyout

Facebook successfully purchased rival social network Instagram in April 2012 for one billion dollars, bolstering the social network’s presence.

Instagram has been kept largely independent, though parts of it have been integrated with Facebook, such as the ability to share photos on Facebook too, as well as Stories.

WhatsApp acquisition

Facebook continued its acquisition spree in 2014, buying out messaging app WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars.

Like Instagram, the app has remained separate, with some parts able to link up to the main Facebook social network.

Facebook
Facebook apps (Yui Mok/PA)

Oculus VR

Facebook made yet another deal in 2014, taking over virtual reality startup Oculus VR, for two billion dollars, as the company looked to expand its tech footprint beyond social media.

Mood influencing study

One of Facebook’s earlier controversies came in 2014, when it emerged that a mood influence study was carried out on the News Feed.

The posts that appeared on the home page of 689,000 users were filtered, though Facebook said the experiment was to understand how people respond to different types of content, whether it is positive or negative in tone.

Hitting one billion users

In August 2015, Facebook announced that it had hit a new milestone, with one billion users accessing the service in a single day.

Moving beyond Likes

Facebook added new reactions to accompany its famous Like button in 2016, with emotions showing love, laughter, wow, sadness and anger.

Facebook
Facebook (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Cambridge Analytica

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was one of the biggest controversies to hit Facebook, when an investigation claimed that the data analysis firm was passing personal data from Facebook apps without the consent of individuals.

It is believed that the company harvested data of up to 87 million users in 2014, resulting in fines which included a £500,000 penalty issued by the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), to Facebook.

Data breach of almost 30 million accounts

In September 2018, Facebook revealed that nearly 50 million accounts were compromised by a security breach – though the number was later decreased to 30 million.

At the time, Facebook vice president Guy Rosen said attackers “exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted ‘View As’, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else”.

Record income

Despite a slew of controversies, Facebook reported strong financial results for the three months ending on December 31, 2018, with revenue at 16.9 billion dollars (£12.8 billion), up 30% on the 12.9 billion (£9.8 billion) reported in the same period last year.

Chris Price
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