FB20140324Quick query: What social media site do you use?

Your most likely reply will be, “Facebook, of course.” And why not? As of today, one out of every six people in the planet uses FB. In absolute numbers, the total is estimated at 1.2 billion people, and counting.

What started out as little more than a seemingly wild idea in the mind of college student Mark Zuckerberg 10 years ago last month has become an internet juggernaut. While it grew and grew as a social networking site practically from day one, it took some five years before FB became profitable. But when it did, it did so in the biggest way imaginable.

Along the way, its founder became a multi-billionaire. He’s also had a movie made about how he turned his simple concept into a must use for just about everyone. Just like Steve Jobs. (Isn’t it odd that no film has been made devoted to the life and times of Bill Gates, except for one forgettable movie about him, Jobs, et al some years ago? It was called The Pirates of Silicon Valley, or something like that.)

Originally known as “the facebook,” college kids went wild over the novel idea of sharing with their peers some information that could be considered major or trivial. Back then, all the site would show was one’s profile picture, relationship status, and “poking” was the only means of saying “hi” to any of your friends (or relatives) who were FB users.

There was no Photo album, Timeline nor Like button back then. No Wall either. But it was these later innovations that made all the difference. The constant improvements would turn Zuckerberg into one of the richest people on earth.

Think back to 2004. We were all 10 years younger. Although it was initially the college crowd that took to FB like ducks to water, most everyone else followed suit very quickly. Filipinos were particularly quick to join the site as it was yet another means of staying in touch with one’s peers.

While cell phones were already established as an item that one had to have no matter what, texting one another still cost P1 per message. FB, on the other hand, was free. Or at least a lot more inexpensive, since one still had to be online in order to use the site.

Joining was a cinch, and the parents of the initial users joined in after early doubts. Soon enough, even grandparents began to appreciate FB.

The growth of FB has had its share of problems. The privacy issue remains a big thorn on its side. Anyone can look at any other person’s FB page, even unwelcome Peeping Toms. And once something has been posted on the site, it becomes a permanent record.

Little can be done about the stalkers out there who head for the sites of their ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends, for example. Blocking them may be one way, but nothing stops anyone from setting up a site under an assumed name. So yes, privacy remains an issue that Zuckerberg must resolve if the FB goose will continue to lay its golden eggs for him in the years and decades to come.

In the meantime, a new challenger has appeared on the horizon: Snapchat. This social media site avails of photos instead of written messages, and the shots that are posted disappear after a short period. High school and college kids love it because their parents and grandparents haven’t discovered it yet.


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