The biggest and most densely populated social networking website ever, Facebook turns nine today. What began as a website for a closed user group within Harvard University has grown manifold – so much so that it has a billion active members from around the globe today.

Facebook began its life as Facemash, a website where Harvard students could rate each other on hotness quotient, based on their photographs. How Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook from an invite-only Ivy League college website to this level is no secret with popular culture featuring the story in movies and books like The Social Network and Accidental Billionaires.

If there is one thing that’s remained constant on Facebook all these nine years is change. Zuckerberg and co. have made sure path breaking features – some even outlandishly so – are added to the website on almost a daily basis. Oh yes, we’re talking business pages to relationship status to likes to social networking games and everything in between. 

Happy birthday, Facebook!

Happy birthday, Facebook!

In recent years, Facebook has taken to spreading its supremacy over the mobile platform too. With the number of smartphone users growing by the day, the social networking giant has made sure that its mobile applications are as far as possible at par with its website. Besides creating native apps for iOS and Android from scratch, Facebook has also launched a new app called ‘Poke’ recently that self-destroys messages instantly after the receiver has seen it.

Facebook’s relentless efforts towards gaining users worldwide paid off in a huge way in September last year when it hit the unprecedented milestone of one billion active users. With this milestone, Facebook had reached heights other social networking websites like MySpace, Twitter and Orkut have only dreamed about. According to a report by GlobalWebIndex, in Q4 alone last year, Facebook saw 693 million users globally, with a growth rate of 33 percent. Facebook rules the roost with other social networking websites fighting for second place.

Of course, controversies have played a huge part in Facebook’s journey from being an eight-year-old to nine.

While last year was a huge one for the social networking website, with it being the first one ever to go public with an IPO, Facebook’s shares have fluctuated heavily in the past year. Zuckerberg has indeed made sure that he salvages the situation every single time though. 

Facebook brought over photo editing app Instagram last year and found itself in hot water thanks to it too. Besides having to face a Federal Trade Commission enquiry over its acquisition of the app, Instagram kept running into trouble while trying to change its Terms of Services and Privacy Policies.

As for year nine for Facebook, the future looks bright for the birthday website. Facebook has taken 2013 head-on with the launch of its newest feature Graph Search. Like it or hate it, you cannot deny the fact that Facebook always sticks its neck out with new features like these that make it different from other websites that stick to the tried and tested.

Facebook has also clearly shifted its focus towards building a solid presence on several mobile platforms for not just social networking but also messaging. With no sign-up required to use Messenger for Android and the rolling out of free calling features using the app, Facebook is working its way towards giving apps like Whatsapp and Skype a tough time. Knowing Zuckerberg’s penchant towards treading unknown paths, we’re looking forward to Facebook surprising us with newer features this year.

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