The brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg, a website designed mainly to meet chicks, Facebook was born on this day ten years ago. Like so many tech projects of the last 30 years, it started with a kid who had an idea and some programming skills. Now it's a multibillion-dollar company and the most visited website on the planet. Dare to dream, nerds.
But Facebook left in its wake a number of websites that had been popular before it came along. Such is life on the Internet. One website is replaced with newer technology and a more interesting interface. In fact, some are predicting the same will happen to Facebook itself as younger kids turn away from the social media giant for other, more entertaining sites like SnapChat and locales that aren't inhabited by, dear GOD, their parents.
Still, Facebook is king for now, but like all kingdoms, it was built at least in part on the bones of its ancestors.
While not exactly the first social network -- that title probably belongs to little-remembered Six Degrees -- it was the one that really solidified the concept. Of course, like most things that were the first of their kind, it was clunky and not terribly sophisticated compared to what we use today. It also could not account for the rapid rise of mobile technology. But the death knell was the advent of Facebook, which buried it under a better interface and greater popularity.
It used to be that sharing links was complicated. Personally, you could bookmark them with your browser, but sharing them was not easy. Then services like Digg and Delicious came along. They let you store bookmarks online and share them with the world. The problem is those people had to be on Digg or Delicious to see them and not many were. Now links that aren't shared on Twitter or Facebook generally aren't shared at all.
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The single most popular social media site on the web prior to Facebook was MySpace. It combined an interesting mix of bands and individuals with annoying animated gifs and flashing pink backgrounds. The freedom it gave users was perhaps one of the key factors in driving people away. It sounds good in theory, but when it takes forever to load a person's profile page because of music playing in the background, you just move on. Facebook made connecting with people simple. They still haven't figured out how to incorporate music, something MySpace did with ease and is using to attempt to reinvent itself, but there is no question who won this battle.
I think the most overlooked consequence of Facebook's rise to power was the near elimination of Classmates, a website that helped connect people with old school friends. The problem wasn't the idea but the business model. Sure, you could sign up for free, but if you wanted to see the good stuff -- e.g., how that hot former boyfriend looked now at 40 -- you had to pay. If such stats are to be believed, the number one reason people use Facebook is to look at photos of people, and Classmates wanted everyone to pay for that privilege. Once Facebook made it free and easy, Classmates didn't stand a chance.