Glittery hats and party poppers at the ready, this week the galaxy-famous social network turned twelve.
For most of us it seems like only yesterday that we first submitted our deets through the famous blue and white facade; just a name, date of birth and email and we could stay in touch with friends past and present at the click of a mouse.
Facebook has grown, gaining strength far faster than your average tweenager and making considerably more friends in the process - 1.5bn at last count. And last quarter, while most 12-year-olds earned £10-per-week for a vaguely legal paper-round, Mark Zuckerberg’s baby amassed a whopping $5.4bn.
Where did it all go right? While the cool kids were all over MySpace and Bebo, the ugly duckling of Facebook elbowed its way through and gobbled up the punters. It spread its wings, took to the skies and flew to brave new social horizons.
Who was I to resist? Back in 2005, what King Zuck was offering was just a bit cooler than those other platforms. Facebook was the understated, grown up development from online predecessors; no stars, love-hearts or top-ten lists, just friends, a message board and easy-to-use sharing format, all presented in harmless plain blue and white. We ‘liked’ what we saw.
But this teenage Face is not without its blemishes. Regulation and monitoring haven't been able to stem the lightning fast perpetuation of rumour, scandal and false report. Darker still, anonymity has allowed all manner of bullying and predatory demons to sneak in through the door.
More superficially, layouts, newsfeeds and various structures have changed shape, much to the ire of users who like things to stay exactly as they are.
My relationship with my favourite social media platform has been anything but smooth. I pulled my hair out trying to amend privacy settings, after coming across a photo of myself looking ‘tired’ at a friend’s birthday party. For years I suffered images of what people were having for tea, 'cute' babies covered in their own tea, mates dressed for a night on the tiles posting bathroom selfies with the toiletbowl haunting the background. Don't get me started on sonographs of foetuses as profile pictures. Then I stumbled across the 'hide this person' button, and most has been forgiven. Congratulations Facebook, you win.
Whatever its shortcomings, the social media giant has continued to win in millions of minds around the world, giving Facebook the keys to an advertising goldmine of information. Shrewd acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp have provided fresh data veins that are a billion users strong. And through it all we've stayed faithful and engaged, simply because Facebook is remarkably good at moving with the times.
As the platform embarks upon its thirteenth year to digital heaven, it can reflect on twelve years that have changed the world as we know it. But what next? Facebook’s Atlas will allow firms to communicate using real-world and digital data, while every-day users can surely count on their favourite platform continuing to accommodate every fad and fashion of the digital era.
After growing throught childhood at breakneck speed, let's hope Mark’s monster grows into a responsible adult.
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