When the movie 'The Social Network' came out, in 2010, its tagline was "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies." Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's creator, did get into some dire straits with his co-founders in his way up. But Facebook has now almost tripled its size, growing into the third biggest 'country' in the world, with 1,393 billion users per month. It is, by far, the most popular and important social network in the Internet. And the most feared tech company, too, as a November 2014 survey showed, over privacy concerns.
Facebook's contribution to the social media era we live in is paramount, for multiple reasons: sheer size, innovative features, and even the concept. Unlike all of the other social networks, like the then leader MySpace and regional hits Orkut and Hi5, Facebook's aim was to recreate each person's real social graph online. It didn't encourage users to add strangers, but to friend the people they already knew in real life. To achieve this, Mark Zuckerberg created a set of rules that included using one's real identity - harder to monitor for millions of users, but part of the terms of service.
He developed the platform in 2003, when he was studying in Harvard. Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders, later filled a lawsuit agains the company. The Winklevoss twins have also come through accusing Zuckerberg of stealing their ideas. In the first two years, Facebook was a student-only platform, requiring users to have a valid college email (it opened to some work platforms and high school students before being available to everyone).
With a growing popularity, it changed the way people consume media: the News Feed concept has been mimicked in multiple platforms. It killed MSN Messenger by introducing a chat tool, and it made the "Like" a staple in any website and a measure of popularity, both for people and for brands.
The explosive growth and impact came with a new responsibility in privacy, the main reason why the company is feared and many users have cancelled their accounts. Moreover, the curation of one's Facebook profile has become something of an art, in many cases driving people to portray their lives in a manipulated fashion. The same has been said regarding Instagram, the photo sharing mobile app that Facebook bought in 2012.
That same year, the social network went public in a highly anticipated IPO. Its shares are now being traded at around $80, bringing its market cap to over $220 billion.