What Is Facebook?

What Facebook is, where it came from and what it does

Facebook logo and homepage
Carl Court / Staff / Getty Images

Facebook is a social networking website and service where users can post comments, share photographs and links to news or other interesting content on the Web, play games, chat live, and stream live video. You can even order food with Facebook if that's what you want to do. Shared content can be made publicly accessible, or it can be shared only among a select group of friends or family, or with a single person.

History and Growth of Facebook

Facebook began in February of 2004 as a school-based social network at Harvard University. It was created by Mark Zuckerberg along with Edward Saverin, both students at the college.

One of the reasons credited for the rapid growth and popularity of Facebook was its exclusivity. Originally, to join Facebook you had to have an email address at one of the schools in the network. It soon expanded beyond Harvard to other colleges in the Boston area, and then to Ivy League schools. A high school version of Facebook launched in September of 2005. In October it expanded to include colleges in the U.K., and in December it launched for colleges in Australia and New Zealand. 

Facebook accessibility also expanded to select companies such as Microsoft and Apple. Finally, in 2006, Facebook opened to anyone 13 years or older and took off, overtaking MySpace as the most popular social network in the world.

In 2007, Facebook launched the Facebook Platform, which allowed developers to create applications on the network. Rather than simply being badges or widgets to adorn on a Facebook page, these applications allowed friends to interact by giving gifts or playing games, such as chess.

In 2008, Facebook launched Facebook Connect, which competed with OpenSocial and Google+ as a universal login authentication service.

Facebook's success can be attributed to its ability to appeal to both people and businesses, its developer's network that turned Facebook into a thriving platform and Facebook Connect's ability to interact with sites around the web by providing a single login that works across multiple sites.

Key Features of Facebook

  • Facebook allows you to maintain a friends list and choose privacy settings to tailor who can see content on your profile.
  • Facebook allows you to upload photos and maintain photo albums that can be shared with your friends
  • Facebook supports interactive online chat and the ability to comment on your friend's profile pages, sometimes called "walls," in order to keep in touch, share information or just to say "hi."
  • Facebook supports group pages, fan pages and business pages that let businesses use Facebook as a vehicle for social media marketing.
  • Facebook's developer network delivers advanced functionality and monetization options.
  • Facebook Connect allows websites to interact with Facebook and allows Facebook to be used as a universal login authentication service.
  • You can stream video live using Facebook Live.

Learn More About Facebook