facebook growth

The popular social networking website Facebook has grown extensively since its launch in February 2004. As of January 2007, about 250,000 Facebook accounts are created each day, for a total of more than 67 million active users. At its establishment, Facebook was offered strictly to college students. Beginning at Harvard University, Facebook soon extended to Stanford, Columbia and Yale. Only students with valid email addresses for these universities could register on Facebook. After experiencing immediate success, Facebook soon opened up to all college students. By May of 2005, the site included more than 800 college networks. In September 2005, Facebook extended its reach to high school students. At first, the high school Facebook network was completely separate from the college Facebook network. In time, however, the two networks mixed. Facebook Press Representative and Andover alumnus Meredith Chin ’01 wrote in an email, “We discovered that many people wanted to be able to communicate across those [network] lines, either with younger/older siblings or just with friends.” Yet, this homogenization was met with resentment by some college Facebook users. Various Facebook ‘groups’ formed in opposition to the joining high school users. One such group is “Facebook Should Be for College Students Only,” which currently has 1,011 members. The group’s statement says, “Facebook was made to be exclusive for college students and that’s how it should be.” Regarding complaints raised about the inclusion of high school students to Facebook, Chin wrote, “Since Facebook is a social utility, it aims to help people communicate and share information more efficiently. Adding high school networks was a natural evolution in helping more people do that.” Just one month after adding high school networks, Facebook also opened its doors to international schools. Accordingly, by the end of 2005, Facebook had more than 5.5 million participants. The next step in Facebook’s expansion was the inclusion of work offices in May 2006. Again, this movement was met with some disapproval by student users. Various students were uncomfortable with adults, and more specifically, parents invading their webspace. Lydia Dallett ’08 said that she did not want her parents to create Facebook accounts because, “I don’t necessarily want my parents looking at the [messages] that my friends write on my wall…It’s just sort of about keeping a barrier between home life and school life.” On the other hand, Tory Marvin ’09, whose mother has a Facebook account, said, “Personally I’m not bothered by [parents using Facebook] because my mom is one of my best friends.” Tory said that she and her mother use Facebook to send messages and occasionally share photos. Chin wrote, “We receive a lot of feedback from users that are actually really excited to be able to communicate with their parents. Similarly, we get messages from parents that are thankful they have a way of staying in touch with their children, even when they are off at college or …boarding school.” Meanwhile, for those that prefer to avoid contact with adults on Facebook, Chin said, “Facebook offers really granular privacy settings that allow users to control their information and who they are sharing it with.” September of 2006 marked another significant milestone for Facebook, when the website extended its network to people worldwide. Before long, in December 2006 there were more than 12 million Facebook accounts. Facebook’s size and popularity have grown exponentially in less than five years. Creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly declined multibillion dollar buyout offers from Yahoo and Google between September 2006 and October 2007. The next step in Facebook’s evolution is a new profile design that will be launched this spring. Chin said that the goal of the project is “to give people the best possible user experience.”