Happy Tenth Birthday, Facebook

The social network launched in Cambridge a decade ago today.


Wikimedia Commons

On February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com from his dorm room in Cambridge. That makes this the website’s 10th birthday. For the company and for its many, many users, it’s a time to reflect on how far the company has gone (and not just the 3,000 miles it traveled from its birthplace in Massachusetts).

But for Boston in particular, it’s a moment to remember the quaint time when thefacebook.com, a small site for Harvard kids to stalk the cute girl in their PoliSci section, resided in our metro area.

That brief era is commemorated by a February 9, 2004, story in the Harvard Crimson, “Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website,” the first news coverage given to what would become a phenomenon. At the time, Zuckerberg was more infamous than anything else. As you’ll recall from the loose adaptation of events in the film “The Social Network,” a  semester earlier, Zuckerberg created Facemash, a site that allowed visitors to rate students’ appearances against each other and that landed him in trouble with the school. This new endeavor, he told the Crimson, was more noble, seeking to link up college students outside the bounds of password-protected and residential house-specific online Facebooks.

“I’m pretty happy with the amount of people that have been to it so far,” he told the Crimson. “The nature of the site is that each user’s experience improves if they can get their friends to join it.”

The article contains some amusing ironies. “While Zuckerberg promised that thefacebook.com would boast new features by the end of the week, he said that he did not create the website with the intention of generating revenue.” Zuckerberg was reportedly “pleased” with the 650 students that had registered.

The company now has 1.23 billion users, and it’s worth about $135 billion. But these were quaint days with still-smaller ambitions. This was before you knew more than you ever wanted about your second cousin’s political views. Before your mom commented on all your photos, both online and off. Expansion has created challenges for the company’s image and its dominance in social networking that Zuckerberg will have to fend off for the next ten years. If he’s even half as successful as he was in the first 10, he might do okay.