Facebook, formerly known as thefacebook, is a social networking service specifically for high school, college, and university communities, primarily in English-speaking countries. The site has some similarities to MySpace, but differs in account availability, user control of display content, and overall neatness of appearance. As of December 2005, it has the largest number of registered users among college networking sites (at over six million accounts created).
Anyone with access to a valid e-mail address from a supported school can register for and access the site, a group that includes students, alumni, faculty, and staff, although the vast majority of Facebook’s users are students. The site is free to users and is financed by advertising.
Users create personal profiles, typically containing photos and lists of interests, exchange private or public messages, and join groups of friends. With a few exceptions, the viewing of detailed profile data is restricted to users from the same school.
Facebook was founded as Thefacebook in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes, and Dustin Moskovitz at Harvard College, where the photographic book of the freshman class that is distributed to all incoming students is popularly known as the "Face Book." The website spread across the Harvard campus and within a few weeks, over half the undergraduate population had registered. The website then expanded to allow students from Columbia University, Stanford University, other Ivy League colleges, Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Chicago to register. It became something of a network phenomenon, spreading rapidly to other schools, despite some competition from similar, local websites. Facebook was launched second to CampusNetwork, the world's first college-focused social network, but took off much more quickly and gained higher saturation at member schools.
As the site’s popularity rose and advertising revenue grew, Moskovitz and Zuckerberg left Harvard to run their website fulltime. The pair soon moved to Palo Alto, California, established an office and recruited a staff of eight.
In November 2004, the number of registered users exceeded one million. As of July 2005, the network has expanded to include 835 institutions across the United States and Canada, including 2.5 million users. As of the spring of 2005, the company also expanded to include a small number of international institutions and U.S. community colleges. By October 2005, the number of institutions exceeded 1530, and the number of users exceeded four million.
Stories about Thefacebook became commonplace in online and print media. Simultaneously, several competitor sites appeared attempting to capture some of the limelight. In late 2004, the owners of the website ConnectU, another social networking website targeted towards college students, filed a lawsuit against Thefacebook, alleging that Zuckerberg had stolen source code intended for their website while in their employ  .
In late August 2005, it was announced on the main website that the domain name facebook.com was acquired from Aboutface Corporation, and the website moved domains and dropped the "the" from the site name effective August 23, 2005. Also included in the move was a site overhaul, making profile pages more "user-friendly," according to Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has since added more universities to Facebook (with an emphasis on forgotten schools in Canada as well as in the United States), but unlike in the past, the new schools are no longer publicized on the front page.
On September 2, 2005, deeming it the "next logical thing" to do, Zuckerberg launched a high school version of Facebook. The high school version will be kept separated from the college version, so that "nobody in high school can search for you, see your profile or even send you a message" and vice versa. Although high school students could only join via an invitation for the first weeks, by September 17, an invitation was no longer necessary for most schools. So far, high school Facebook has failed to achieve the same popularity as the college version.
By October 2005, Facebook had nearly completed its expansion to smaller universities and junior colleges throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, Facebook expanded to 21 universities in the United Kingdom, and added the entire Instituto Tecnologico system in Mexico, the entire University of Puerto Rico system in Puerto Rico and the entire University of the Virgin Islands system in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of October 27, 2005, Facebook has launched a new feature called My Photos. Further expanding Facebook, the new feature allows users to post pictures in photo albums for friends to view. If the user prefers, he or she may also link images to the profiles of those pictured in the photo. Upon doing so, the picture will then show up on that person's profile with the words "tagged by others". Tagged users also have the option of "untagging" themselves from pictures.
On December 21, 2005, Facebook added two new features, a page showing the latest trends and most popular listings called Pulse, and the ability to state how you are friends with someone. Pulse lists and compares trends at an institution with overall trends or those of a particular other institution. It is calculated from the listings that users put under topics such as favourite music, movies, and books on their profile page. It is also now possible to let others know how you came to know another friend on Facebook. Examples include going to the same school, dating, travelling together, took a course together, and many more, with most being customizable.
Like other social networking websites, Facebook allows users to create an online profile and upload a user picture. Personal information is voluntarily supplied by the user, and access to it can be restricted, as can access to the user's wall, whose entries are also deletable by the user. Information that the user may display include:
- Hometown and State
- High School
- Relationship Status
- Sexual Orientation ("Interested in")
- Political Views
- Intended vote (Available prior to the 2004 Presidential Election.
- Favorite Music
- Favorite TV Shows
- Favorite Movies
- Favorite Books
- Favorite Quotes
- And a short description of yourself
By clicking on profile entries, such as favorite music current residence or high school, a user can browse through a list of users with the same entry although coding problems may sometimes search the keyword within people's entire profiles. Also, one may choose to use the site's search feature. The profiles of users from each institution included in the network are stored on a unique subdomain, which limits profile viewing. A user may only view the profiles of users at his or her institution, although mutual friends from different schools may access each other's profiles. Each user is given a "wall" on their profile, for public peer-to-peer messaging.
Users can then search for other users and request an acknowledgment that they are "friends." A count of one's friends and the ability to browse a list of friends is available on each user's profile. Furthermore, users can visualize the connections between their friends via an SVG image representing the social network. Users are able to browse through their friends through a map that represents the user’s friends’ current locations or hometowns. On December 21, 2005, a feature was introduced that allows users to select how they met the people on their friends list, such as "Went to school together", "From an organization or team", or "We dated". These details can then be confirmed by the other person.
One of the early features of service was the ability for a user to download a csv or vCard file of that user's friends. This feature was removed without explanation in mid 2004. It may have been removed for anti-spam purposes as the site no longer has direct email links within the user profiles and instead shows email addresses as graphics that are not clickable links.
- Lived together
- Worked together
- From an organization or team
- Took a course together
- From a summer / study abroad program
- Went to school together
- Traveled together
- In my family
- Through a friend
- Through Facebook
- Met randomly
- We hooked up
- We dated
- I don't even know this person.(Deletes them as friend)
After a friend selects how they know a particular user and requests confirmation, that user then has the option of confirming the details.
Members may also create and join groups. These groups range from online mirrors of real campus organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, sports, and recognized clubs, to common interest groups (such as people from the same area code or people who attended a public school), to joke groups. Facebook also includes a feature that allows users to list parties, invite users and receive RSVPs. Like the groups feature, the party listing has also been used for jokes, although fraternities often announce parties through this. Groups made by a user are limited to membership within the user's school; however, some advertisers can create groups that have membership from all campuses.
Facebook also allows users to send private messages and “pokes” to other users. The "poke" feature simply sends the text, "You have been poked," and provides an option to poke back. While the creators of Facebook maintain that there is no actual intended purpose for implementing the "poking" option, it is often used simply to gain the attention of the person who is poked. It is sometimes used as a playful way to flirt on Facebook when a user develops an interest in another's picture or the information that he or she provides. It is also often used as a joke amongst mutual friends, since those who are already acquainted with each other have more efficient ways, such as Facebook's internal private messaging system, to make contact. Although it is not possible to view the profiles of non-mutual friends from other schools, they can still be messaged or poked.
In addition to sending messages and poking other, people can also write on the "walls" of others' Facebooks to convey messages to their friends. Unlike poking and messaging which are completely private, visible to only the sender and designated receiver, walls are visible to every person who has access to that person's profile.
Initially, if one had his "wall" enabled, his friends could edit the wall as they chose, and walls were not divided into separate entries. However, in late 2005, the "wall" was changed to a message board format, and users no longer edit it as before. Now, users have the ability to create new posts on others' walls, and the wall owner is able to remove unwanted posts.
Another feature is the My Photos page. Users can upload apparently unlimited numbers of photos to their Facebook accounts and sort them in named albums. Users can list who is in each photo with tags, tying photos to account holders or applying other tags of their choosing. This allows one to view all the pictures on Facebook of a particular person, regardless of who uploaded them.
All features are free, except for public announcements, which are a type of advertising students can purchase on Facebook. The website also generates revenue from mainstream advertisers who are interested in targeting college students, such as Apple Computer.
In December 2005, Facebook added a page, titled "Pulse", to their service. This page provides statistics and trends (much like Google's Zeitgeist), updated daily, regarding members of the website. The page displays Top Ten lists for various sections of the profile (e.g. Movies, Music, Television, Books, Hometowns, etc.) for both the user's school and the facebook in general. Also provided are current trends: the fastest rising and falling items on the lists.
Etiquette "Rule Book"
Template:POV-section A general sense of etiquette for using the Facebook has emerged as the site has grown and become a fixture of the student social scene on many campuses. One popular Facebook group with "chapters" at many schools' sites is the "Facebook Rule Book," which presents a list of guidelines that claim to reflect the consensus over proper usage. The guidelines vary somewhat from school to school, and many are meant to be humorous at least as much as they are meant to be taken as suggestions. Nevertheless, they are reflective of the behavior of many users on the site. A typical version of them is as follows.
- You must have a picture. This is not the question mark book.
- This picture should actually look like you. Using a picture in which you appear a lot more attractive than you actually are can be misleading and lead to disappointments.
- You should also probably be the only person in your picture. It's cool that you have a lot of friends, but once again this is misleading, especially when your friend is incredibly hot.
- Poking is an enjoyable and encouraged activity. Do it with as many people as possible.
- If you see someone in person that you've seen on the Facebook, say something. Don't just point, and definitely do not poke them. Chances are they recognize you too, unless you have not followed rules 1-3.
- Why are you drinking in your picture? Your beverage is probably blocking your face.
- Are you actually married? If not, don't put that down under your relationship status. Nobody will want to get with you.
- Group participation is important. Don't just join every single group ever. Stay focused.
- Obviously you check the Facebook every 5 minutes, so please respond to your messages in a timely manner. Chances are you're making the sender of the message extremely insecure. If you're trying to seem cool, wait 24 hours or so before responding. Any longer than that is unnecessary.
- Confirm only those friends that you know. Rejecting a friend request may be the ultimate Facebook diss, but it's more lame to have 250 friends you don't know than 5 that you actually do. Don't be a friend whore.
- The library is a perfectly acceptable place to check the Facebook, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Even on the largest computer screen, Facebook pictures are mad small ... so it doesn't help when you are so far in the backround of your picture that even a magnifying glass won't help determine who you are. Please choose an appropriately sized photo.
- Don't edit your own wall, it makes you look like a loser.
- Just because there was no question in a message someone sent you, does not mean that you do not have to respond. Sometimes it's really hard to think of a question to ask someone, especially since small talk is virtually eliminated through Facebook profiles. Even when there is no question, a comment is definitely in order.
- If you are not on the Facebook, that does not mean that people will think you are cool or mysterious. It means no one is thinking about you at all.
Template:Weasel-section Some have argued that Facebook is not as user-friendly as other college-networking websites. For example, Facebook has been criticized for not allowing users to view profiles of people at other colleges who have not already listed them as a friend (or "poked" them). Facebook has stated on its website that security purposes prevent them from allowing outsiders to see one's profile. Problems with maintenance have been an issue as many new accounts are made each day causing heavy traffic for the servers. Furthermore, there are still many bugs in the coding that have caused minor problems for some users.
Another criticism, which many claim as their reason for not using it, is its tendency to become a popularity contest. Users often boast of their "friend" count, with special emphasis going to the number of friends at other universities. With many users having friend counts of over 500, it is possible that the user does not know all of his or her "friends," let alone has met them all in person. Newsweek called Charlie Rosenbury, the University of Missouri student who amassed over 70,000 friends, the site's celebrity . Since then, Facebook staff have cracked down on those who collected too many friends, saying that Facebook "was not designed to do complex manipulations with exceedingly long lists of friends" and that the addition of users that one doesn't know as 'friends' "creates an unrealistic abberation in the real life social network that makes the site less useful for regular users" . Charlie Rosenbury's list of friends was lowered by Facebook staff to 4,000 . Students have also created programs which spam others with friendship requests. Facebook has since placed a limit on how many friends a user may request at a time.
Perhaps in response to this phenomenon, Facebook's "How do you know this person?" feature, introduced in December 2005, presents users with the option, "I don't even know this person." If this option is selected, the software replies, "Then why are you friends with them?" and presents the user with the option of removing them as a friend.
Since registration is open to all email addresses within a specific domain name (@school.edu), students with access to more than one such email address may take advantage of the situation to create fake profiles. As a result, littering Facebook's database are profiles for real-life historical figures, celebrities, and campus personalities such as football coaches, university presidents, athletics mascots, and even inanimate objects such as beer. Although this practice is against Facebook policy (as the Facebook FAQ says, "Dude, everyone knows that you aren't Paris Hilton") and requests for name changes must be approved by Facebook staff, new fake profiles continue to be created.
Use in investigations
Alcohol policy violations
It has become increasingly common for colleges and universities to use Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies. Students who violate these policies may be discovered through photographs of illicit drinking behavior, membership in drinking-related groups, or party information posted on the Facebook website. For example:
- In October 2005, the campus police of Berry College used Facebook to break up a freshman party on campus (where alcohol was being consumed), when a student invited the chief of police of the campus to join the party by way of Facebook.
- In November 2005, four students at Northern Kentucky University were fined for posting pictures of a drinking party on Facebook. The pictures, taken in one of NKU's dormitories, proved that the students were in violation of the university's dry campus policy. 
- Also in 2005 Calvin College has had reports of using Facebook in order to find students involved in the breaking of rules in the student handbook (mainly alcohol uses). 
- In October of 2005, sophomore (at a two year school) Cameron Walker was expelled from Fisher College in Boston for comments about a campus police officer made on Facebook. These comments, including the statement that the officer "loves to antagonize students . . . and needs to be eliminated", were judged to be in violation of the college's code of conduct. 
- Penn State University police used Facebook to track down students who rushed the field after the October 8, 2005 Ohio State game. As of November 2005, two students have been charged with criminal trespass for their involvement. 
- In November 2005, Kansas State University authorities announced that they were using Facebook to investigate a possible violation of the school's honor code potentially involving over 100 students. Students used the message board of a Facebook group to share class information without authorization from the professor. 
- In October 2005, University of Pennsylvania freshmen student government election results were delayed due to early campaigning violations on Facebook. Though candidates were forbidden from campaigning before a certain date, many Facebook advocacy groups appeared before that date. The University of California, Berkeley has also experienced similar problems.
- In December 2005 University of Rochester security alerted the Rochester Police Department of a sodomy charge when illicit photographs were shared in one student's public folder. Template:Fact
- In October 2005, At the University of Missouri, Facebook content and postings caused various fines to be levied in the presidential election of the Missouri Students Association (student body government). Later in the election, election results were temporarialy withheld from the public while the student court heard cases concerning the Facebook content of one of the slates. 
- In November 2005, the student newspaper of the University of Missouri, The Maneater, ran an article concerning the content of the student body vice president-elect's Facebook profile. There was an uploaded picture depicting a female duct taped to a chair drinking an alcoholic beverage, however the identity of the girl was never confirmed as Brooke Moody (the recently elected officer). University officials were said to be looking into the matter, however nothing has since become of this inquiry. 
It has also been rumored that employers are looking at Facebook profiles of prospective employees or interns. Whether or not this practice is common is unknown, but students looking for jobs should be aware that information posted on Facebook is potentially accessible to employers with faculty or alumni accounts. 
Schools block access
The University of New Mexico in October 2005 blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, citing unsolicited e-mails and a similar site called UNM Facebook.  After a UNM user signed into Facebook from off campus, a message from Facebook said, "We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access."
UNM, in a message to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network, wrote, "This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM's Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc.). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business."
Many highschools across the United States have blocked acess to Facebook on all school computers after students have started anti-school groups like the notorious School Sucks group. Some schools have even gone as far as to suspend students that are members of Facebook hate groups towards peers or staff members. At East Lansing Highschool, MI, many students were threatened with disiplinary action for joining a Facebook group about how much they hate the principal.Template:Fact
In the news
- Audio interview with co-founder Chris Hughes by the college podcast DORM'd
- Article about the history of Facebook and its founder
- Timeline of Facebook's history
- College Facebook Mugs Go Online in Wired News
- Interview with co-founder Chris Hughes regarding the technology behind Facebook, the introduction of High School Facebook, and the future of Facebook
- The Student Underground: Facebook.com: Big Brother with a Smile Article from Boston University students who feel facebook can be used as a tool to spy on students.
- Article in the "Columbia Missourian" about the University of Missouri examining the uses of Facebook
- Article in the "Capaha Arrow" about administrative use of Facebook
- Collegian: Site Used to Aid Investigations