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The Invention of Facebook

How did Facebook become the greatest invention of the decade, according to a survey in the UK?

The True Innovation

The real "innovation" of Facebook is not the site design itself, but the fact that pretty much anyone you know is on it. Zuckerberg knew that one of the most basic human needs is to feel important, to have a sense of belonging. Facebook fulfilled that attention getting need by letting its users upload photos and share status updates, for their friends to view and perhaps comment on. Zuckerburg also knew that people wanted to share information from people they knew in the real world: "The last hundred years have been defined by the mass media. In the next hundred years, information won't be just pushed out to people: It will be shared among the millions of connections people have."

Zuckerburg's grand vision to create a site on the same level of Google is what makes the controversy surrounding Facebook's founding irrelevant...

The Founding of Facebook

The Invention of FacebookIn 2003 Zuckerberg created Facemash, a site which allowed Harvard students to judge the attractiveness of others, receiving 450 visitors within 4 hours, before being shut down a few days later. Zuckerberg achieved fame on Harvard campus and was recruited to help on a social networking site called Harvard Connections, a site which, its founders say, was copied by Zuckerberg to create Facebook. Zuckerberg's defense against lawsuits claiming that he "stole" Facebook is that he was inspired by multiple sources.

"My most socially inept friends at the school had a better idea of what would attract people to a website than these guys," said Zuckerberg. "The facebook isn't even a very novel idea. It's taken from all these others. And ours was that we're going to do it on the level of schools." One of "these others" was Zuckerberg's Facemash debacle, which showed him that people love to compare themselves against one another. The Harvard Crimson, in December of 2003, published a piece titled "Put Online a Happy Face", which, according to Zuckerburg, inspired him to start actually building the website.

Many on Harvard campus had the idea of a social network. But, "ideas without action are worthless," according to author Helen Keller, and it was only Zuckerburg, who had the skills and ambition to make a vast social network a reality.

In 2004, Zuckerberg created thefacebook.com specifically for Harvard College. Within one month, half of all students were on the site. The site's popularity spread to universities and colleges quickly and high-school students were allowed to join the network in 2005. As of today, Facebook has over 800 million users, 25% of which are in the United States.

Facebook and Narcism

If you want to mend bridges within someone you lost contact with years ago, there's a good chance that you can friend them on Facebook and find out how they've been. You can share information with your friends and family in seconds. Zuckerberg intended for Facebook to complement our social lives, but the site, according to critics, has created the online equivalent of admiring yourself in the mirror for hours. People try to one-up one another with an image of themselves that is superior to their friends. The aforementioned attention getting need, which Facebook was designed for, seems to have gone too far, making its users depressed, according to a study.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of connecting with your friends, without the one-up battles that go on, take the stuff you see on your newsfeed for what it is: an "image" of your friends that doesn't reflect reality.


Back to May 2012 Newsletter

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