Facebook started out as thefacebook.com, which was intended to be a social networking site for college students.
Originally, it was much more low-key than MySpace: A user needed an official school e-mail address to join. To a registered user, the interface worked somewhat similarly (a user could view everyone in his network, but would have to add friends from other networks to view their profiles). Because it came out in spring 2004, anyone who had graduated from college in 2003 or earlier was essentially forbidden from becoming a member, due to their lack of an official school account. Schools were also added piecemeal, so your friend might invite you to join, but find that your college wasn't in the site's database yet.
In 2006, regional, corporate and high school networks were established, leading to an outcry among college students, who felt that Facebook was becoming another MySpace; a counter-contingent appeared who disagreed. This outcry only intensified when the whole "official college e-mail address" thing was abolished later in the year and anyone with an e-mail address was allowed to join. The complaints later became Hilarious in Hindsight, as now it's MySpace that's trying to copy Facebook's every move, ever since it became Condemned by History.
As of 2020, Facebook remains one of the most popular social networking sites out there. with over two billion users. More and more sites are adding Facebook Like buttons on their pages, making it look as if Facebook is taking over the Internet. It lacks most of MySpace's profile-customization options; no sparklies or rainbow-colored fonts allowed, and in fact no profile customisation is allowed at all beyond a single cover image and the choice of what information you want displayed. This may be to Facebook's benefit, as it creates a more professional feeling. However, there are a huge number of applications that one can add to one's profile, for anything from horoscopes to celebrity-lookalike pictures.
There are also a number of entries for fictional characters, such as Michelle Dessler from 24.
This wiki also now has its own page on there.
Facebook's layout has gone through several major changes, each one triggering a mass epidemic of complaining. Ironically, each new update has people rushing to defend the old layout, deciding it was not so bad after all despite laying into that one prior. In addition to this, the media and some more tech-savvy members of the public have found a place to whip Facebook where it hurts the most: privacy. Over time, Facebook has implemented different levels of privacy for its user profiles (while urging people to use caution before posting any compromising photos or rants).
Facebook is home to a variety of third-party applications, including some rather addictive games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille. In fact, some people have Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing games.
A movie about the founding of Facebook, titled The Social Network, was released in 2010, directed by David Fincher, (Se7en, Fight Club) and written by Aaron Sorkin. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provided the soundtrack.
As with MySpace, the mere mention of Facebook in online forums and IRC channels can cause people to launch into long rants about why they don't use social networking sites.
It has led to the practice of "Facebook stalking"looking at someone's profile, status updates and photo uploads to find out more about their lives (rather than, y'know, just talking to them directly). An especially useful tool if you either are curious about some stranger who has ninety-seven mutual friends, enjoy being a "detective", or are a Psycho Ex Boy-/Girlfriend (or, indeed, a thief, as Facebook offers great insight into when people are not at home, while also often giving enough information to find where that home is). Granted, however, it wouldn't be a concern if users simply didn't post this kind of info in the first place.
Facebook entered the stock market on May 18, 2012, at 11 a.m. EDT, under the abbreviation FB, with an IPO of about US$38 billion, which it broke even at the end of that day. Even after the purchase, Mark Zuckerberg has control over the entire company. This move has made him a multi-billionaire and he coincidentally married his longtime girlfriend in a secret wedding just days after. But Facebook also lost a lot of money due to the falling stocks, and a few lawsuits have happened that they'll need to deal with, in addition to an investigation by the U.S. Senate.
In 2017, Facebook launched an internal free streaming service, Facebook Watch, with content produced by outside partners, particularly news networks. The service experimented with offering some full-fledged television series, but was unsatisfied with the results and has cancelled the majority of them, despite some (like Sorry For Your Loss) seeing increased popularity in their second season.
Since the mid 2010s, the company has embroiled in controversy after controversy over privacy, free speech, and democracy with 2018 being the roughest year. The compounding scandals go back as far as 2014 but the troubles really began during the 2016 American Presidential election. In a February 2018 indictment, the US Special Counsel in charge of investigating Russian interference in the election, Robert Mueller, laid out how the Russian government was able to use the platform (among others) to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories. They sold roughly $100,000 worth of ads to the state-sanctioned troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, which was seen by about ten million Americans. Facebook wasn't charged with anything and was seen more as a conduit rather than an intentional malicious actor but the scandal tarred their image for being greedy and recklessnote .
That March, another scandal about their role in politics broke. They admitted that a British company called Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest data that had originally been meant for an academic study of 87 million people without their consent. They had been using the data since 2014 while Facebook knew and did little to stop it. The company targeted ads for both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaigns, the Brexit vote, and the 2018 Federal elections in Mexico. It was reported in April 2019 that Facebook is expecting a $3-5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for violating a 2011 privacy agreement in the scandal.
Most troubling is the extent to which the company has been complicit in mass violence. They were accused in a United Nations report to have been complicit in the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar. They did not hire a translator to moderate their traffic, letting AI do the work. The AI was not able to catch the nuances in the language and allowed the state to post anti-Rohingya propaganda as well as coordinate. They've also not cooperated with the Gambia's attempts to bring Myanmar's ruling party to justice at The Hague and has asked the federal district court based out of Washington, DC to not allow the case to move into the discovery phase. Notably, other social media networks like Twitter have cooperated. In June 2019, a viral post led to an event of ethnic violence in Ethiopia in which 78 people were killed.
There were also several smaller scandals involving privacy issues like sharing data with third party apps as well as videos and pictures that were meant to be private.
More recently, the company has been accused of looking the other way while the site foments extremism and misinformation. The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2020 according to their own research, their lax regulations was causing division and extremism to flourish but ignored it. In particular, one-third of German extremists groups were found by the recommendation button. That year, Zuckerberg also announced that the company wouldn't be fact checking anything by any political campaign as they believed it violated free speech and would continue to allow political ads, even though other social media networks like YouTube and Twitter have taken down false information and scaled back or completely eliminated political advertising. Under pressure, they finally developed a feature to turn off political advertising if desired for the entirety of the 2020 election cycle. However, many felt that Facebook's efforts were not enough, and June 2020, a coalition led by the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP created an advertiser boycott called "Stop Hate for Profit;" as of July 1, 2020, over 600 companies have pulled advertising on Facebook.
The controversy ultimately culminated in a blockbuster anti-trust lawsuit in December 2020 brought by the Federal Trade Commission and a bi-partisan group of Attorneys General from 47 states and the District of Columbia seeking to unwind the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook Watch original programming includes:
- The Birch (2019-present)
- Human Kind Of (2018)
- Limetown (2019)
- The Real Bros of Simi Valley (season 2; 2018)
- The Real World (season 33; 2019)
- Sorry For Your Loss (2018-2019)
This Web site contains examples of:
- Artifact Title: The term "facebook" once referred to printed directories that colleges hand out to students featuring everyone's photo and contact info — essentially what Facebook originally aimed to imitate. Not so much now that it's open to the general public and has so many other features. Meanwhile, its massive popularity has caused a real-life inversion of this trope: Nobody would refer to such a publication as a "facebook" now (assuming they are even printed at all anymore).
- Bag of Sharing: Files for download on groups and pages.
- Double Standard:
- Facebook's announcement of a new policy has stuck some users as this. The new rules would ban anything that "promotes violence" against women. While this sounds like a good idea many have criticized the rather vague and loose wording as well as the fact that is does not offer the same protections for men. The fact that it bases its judgments and training solely on feminist claims has also drawn some attention.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Definitely. In its very earliest form, the website was restricted to a tiny handful of universities, and explicitly designed as a tool for socializing on university campuses. It also didn't have status updates for the first five years of its existence, and didn't add a "Like" button until the year after that; by now, both features have largely taken over the website, even though the website started to gain popularity many years before either of them were introduced.
- Flame War: Whether it's by commenting on other users' pages, trolling the walls of groups they don't like, or posting scathing rants on every conceivable subject, Facebook users are never at a loss for ways to start one.
- Flanderization: A website being Flanderized, you may ask? But this website is now seen as something of a "lets-free-for-all" type site.
- Food Porn: As on another major social networking site, people seem to feel an inexplicable urge to let the world know what they're eating for lunch (with pictures).
- Glurge Addict: You probably have at least one of these in your circle.
- Happiness Is Mandatory: See the Quotes page. It's the main reason why you merely "Ignore" or "Not Now" unwanted friend requests, or are unable to "Dislike" a post.
- Not only that, but Facebook has a tendency to filter posts that you might not like. Made painfully clear in August 2014 when there were plenty of people posting about riots and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, but all anyone saw were feel-good posts about the "ice bucket challenge."
- Mitigating this somewhat, in 2015 they added a more diverse range of ways to respond to a story without commenting, allowing the user to select from a range of emoticons representing "love", "haha", "yay", "wow", "sad" and "angry". None of these generally see as much use as the standard "like" button, but at least the option's there.
- Home Game: Sort of. There are Facebook versions of Wheel of Fortune, The Price Is Right, Press Your Luck, Family Feud and Jeopardy!.
- Interface Screw: Every damn time they change the look, something is done differently.
- Leap Day: The site wishes a happy birthday to persons born February 29 twice in the years when there's no February 29 on February 28 and on March 1.
- Loose Lips: Two types of people who love Facebook? Private investigators and divorce lawyers. People forget that often anyone can read what they put online, although upping your privacy settings can reduce (but not eliminate) the risks involved. Remember: It's a bulletin board, not a diary.
- Law enforcement as well, who have been using the site in the last few years to track down criminals.
- The ATF, and likely the other US Federal agencies, leave the site unblocked on their network for explicitly that reason.
- If you post detailed information about when and where you plan on traveling for your vacation, and your address, and don't have strict privacy settings ... well, don't be surprised when your house gets burgled while you're away.
- Moral Guardians: More than a few concerns raised by this group, including privacy and other things...
- Such people are easy to find within the site as well. Go to any popular post regarding the news (particularly politics and social issues) and you're bound to come across a few in the comments.
- New Media Are Evil: The typical reaction whenever Facebook changes its privacy settings.
- Noodle Incident: Reading peoples' profiles can often have multiple variants of these, proving that it is a Justified Trope.
- Hell, Failbook.com is a site dedicated to collecting these.
- No Swastikas: Particularly enforced since about 2016, and regardless of the context. Any picture with a Swastika, especially historical pictures of Nazi Germany, has a chance of quickly being deleted by the site. Which has pissed off quite a number of users of non-revisionist/non-Neonazi World War II history groups, specially those who got weeks-long posting bans for it while what they posted had nothing to do with apology of Nazism.
- Open Secret: You can tell a lot about someone once you read between the lines of their profile. If it says "School of Hard Knocks" under Education, that usually means "High School Dropout." Likewise, "Self-Employed" with no other indication that they own a business often means Unemployed. Lastly, joint couple profiles like "BillyAndMaria Smith" often mean someone got caught cheating.
- Overly Long Gag: Constantly receiving notifications from a thread you barely participated in can become this, but luckily this has been fixed.
- Ragequit: Every now and then people decide to take a stand against this site, as they feel their privacy is seriously compromised, or just their time.
- Revealing Cover-Up: Along with "failed search for a profile", if a post/comment has a single like, and it is from a blocked person, once the mouse hovers the thumbs-up the hand disappears!
- Serious Business:
- Aside from the flame wars people start by commenting on more sensitive topics, friending/defriending, personal posts, comments and notes are taken very seriously, to the point where defriending someone is considered equivalent to spitting in his face. People expect to get sympathy for every problem with their lives there, so simple relationship breakups and accidentally burning a pizza become equivalent to Armageddon. Some users go so far as to report harassment if one decides to decline participation in an event, and will flat-out block you for simply not going to the said event.
- Remember, any relationship with another human being is not official until it's Facebook Official®. So if you post your wedding photos and haven't listed yourself as "married to [person Y]", it hasn't strictly happened yet until you have.
- When you Unfriend someone you know personally, it heavily implies that you no longer want to be their friend in real life either.
- Shamed by a Mob: A Trope Codifier for doing this online. It is not trolling when people post abuse on Facebook, but gang stalking (i.e. organized psychological harassment).
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: You know at least one couple who send syrupy messages to each other in public on the site.
- Socialization Bonus: Many Facebook games are downright impossible to play alone, because the game refuses to give you items which are required for certain quests. Instead, you must beg for them from your friends, which requires either alienating your real-life friends with endless "Send me 20 Bear Asses!" requests or making "friends" with perfect strangers who happen to already play the game (and hope that they do not quit playing or run amok on your wall).
- Spammer: This is one of The New '10s way spammers operate.
- Talk Like a Pirate: English (Pirate) is amun' the language options, matey! Arr, this be pleasin' to my eye!
- The Internet Is for Porn: Even though anything but the most softcore photos will probably get deleted, people still try to work around the filters.
- There Are No Girls on the Internet: Hardest ever subversion/discrediting of this. About half the userbase is female, surprisingly like Real Life.
- The Tetris Effect: Spending too much time on Facebook can lead to seeing phantom notifications in the corner of your screen, or looking for the "like" button on forum posts.
- Unperson: The concept of "unfriending" removing someone from the list of "friends" taken to another level, where a former friend is also blocked from seeing the blocker's profile or otherwise contacting him/her via Facebook. Those who are blocked are virtually "invisible" to each other. On top of this, the event itself goes without any notification — you'll never notice that someone has unfriended you unless you (A) memorize the number of friends you have and see that it has gone down, or (B) go looking specifically for that person's profile, and fail to find it.
- Unusual Euphemism: Any time a profile says "Self Employed," there's a very good chance it really means unemployed, especially when their supposed actual business isn't mentioned anywhere. Also, "School of Hard Knocks" under Education usually means "dropout".
- Troll: At times sadly present. Thankfully there are many options to shut them up (reporting to the higher-ups, deleting the posts, removing from the group/page, or downright blocking to remove them out of sight).
- We Don't Suck Anymore: In 2018, they began airing ads saying that they know that what was great about them has been messed up by spam and fake news and so-forth, but they're cleaning all that up, so don't worry.
Examples of Facebook in popular culture:
- In Gravity, Matt mentions that "half of North America just lost their Facebook" after space debris knocks out communications.
- In She's Out of My League, Devon and Kirk mention Facebook in a conversation, and Devon says he has 37 friends.
- The Social Network is about the history of Facebook, although Zuckerberg says it's inaccurate.
- In The Three Stooges, Teddy asks the other characters if they have Facebook.
- In Zombieland, "Columbus" talks about the benefit of not having to worry about status updates.
- Unfriended features Facebook prominently.
- The History of the World According to Facebook, a book that expands on the "If historical events had Facebook statuses" idea.
- In the Zombie Apocalypse novel To Sail a Darkling Sea, at one point the team salvages a luxurious yacht belonging to "Spacebook" CEO Mike Mickerberg, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. They recognize the owner among the zombies, and promptly serve him with a 12 gauge shotgun round.
- In You2015, Joe Goldberg uses Beck's Facebook and Twitter feed to learn everything about her and plan his next move with her.
- The Casual Vacancy has several young teenagers whose lives unsurprisingly involve the site. Andrew makes a habit of checking out his crush Gaia's page, Fats Walls is very nitpicky about what he lets on his site while maintaining several dummy accounts for the sake of cyberbullying Sukhvinder, who has to always delete his posts and keeps reporting the accounts but Fats just creates more when they are banned.
- Big Data's "The Business of Emotion" was written in reaction to a controversial case study put out by Facebook in June 2014. Essentially, the site manipulated thousands of users' newsfeeds in order to influence their emotions. This was done without the users' consent; what didn't help matters is that the study included ways to apply the study to marketing. "The Business of Emotion" takes the premise of this study and skewers it, along with a side of The Computer Is Your Friend.
- Now written in emoji!
- The South Park episode "You Have 0 Friends" parodies Facebook.
- On May 16, 2011, an Israeli couple named their daughter after the Facebook "like" feature.