It’s been a decade of Facebook.
To celebrate, the social networking site launched A Look Back, a link to a short video showing your years on Facebook.
Look Back tells me I was wearing an inflatable football helmet in my first Facebook profile photo.
Not only is A Look Back is a fun trip down memory lane (I almost forgot that time I bailed off my road bike/day at the football game/perfect beach in Antibes), it is an interesting snapshot to show how Facebook, and the way we use it, has evolved in the past decade.
I started using Facebook seven years ago, in December 2006, when I was an undergrad and an editor at my student newspaper in Calgary. Though many of the hours I spent in that newspaper office are a blur, I actually remember the exact evening when I started using Facebook. We were supposed to be working on finishing the paper. Instead, a volunteer who had friends at a U.S. college told us about this new thing: Facebook. Soon, the entire office was hard at work, poking each other and updating our relationship statuses. I was the 120,604,652th user to join. Not exactly an early adopter, but not too late to the game.
It’s hard not to be a bit nostalgic for those early Facebook days, back when people actually used the “poke” button. Since Facebook went public in 2012, with the increasing popularity of third-party apps, and as the original Facebook users grow older, my 2014 Facebook has been overtaken by ads for a belly-fat busting, invites to play Candy Crush and updates on friends’ failed attempts to potty train their toddlers.
The rise of a more visual and mobile Internet also means the days of the text status update—Emily is… (fill in the blank)—are mostly over. It’s so much more effective, and easier, to instantly share a brag photo of your toes in the sand, rather than writing about how you’re on a beach vacation.
And there are the ever-present security and privacy concerns, as the now-public company gives up its incredible trove of consumer data to advertisers who are eager to target their messages to just the right user.
Some days, it’s enough to make a user want to de-book. And some are. There have been plenty of reports, including here at Maclean’s, about how Facebook isn’t cool anymore and the kids these days are moving to different social apps, ones that are more mobile-friendly. Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram are always named as the most popular (the latter is owned by Facebook anyway).
My own use on the site has definitely changed. My Look Back video clearly shows I post less to Facebook than I once did and I use it more often to share news articles, things I’m working on, and to crowd-source information from my social group. Aside from the occasional stand-alone photo, or a share from Instagram, I haven’t posted a photo album to Faceboook since 2009. And, due to privacy concerns, the number of personal details I share on the site is far fewer than the ones I shared in 2006 (sorry potential advertisers). Facebook doesn’t know my relationship status anymore, and I’m happy to keep it that way.
Even as long-term Facebookers change how they use, it’s clear that the social network isn’t going away any time soon. Facebook surprised with stronger than expected Q4 earnings just last week, sending its stocks to all-time highs of around US$60. The jump in the company’s net earnings was due to an increase in mobile advertising; while the increase of mobile is sending to some users to other more mobile-friendly social networks (Snapchat, Instagram, etc.), it’s also presenting a promising new revenue opportunity for the now-public company.
With 1.23 billion users monthly (that’s 1/6 of the world’s population!) Facebook is here to stay for the near future. What remains unclear is just how Facebook will changes its services, and further change the way we interact online, in its next 10 years.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014