Facebook is 20 years old on February 4. Now we feel ancient | Tech News

Facebook screen

Happy birthday Facebook!

Sit down, because we have shocking news. Wait, you probably already are, because Facebook turns 20 on Sunday and that means we’re all old.

Yes, 20, two-zero. Facebook can almost drink in America.

It’s the same age as Millie Bobby Brown, who is surely still 14. Roger Federer won his first Australian Open days before its launch. He has won five more since.

That same month Janet Jackson suffered her infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ and Kanye West released The College Dropout. Hey Ya! was number one, and Lindsay Lohan was at the height of her career.

Now, without us realising, two decades have passed. The cool, early adopters of this genuinely world-changing website are now parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, managers, business owners, doctors. Grown-ups.  

But ignore the dawning realisation that time flies swifter than a quick poke, and cheer yourself up with a reminder that the first face of Facebook was not its founder Mark Zuckerberg. It was Al Pacino.

Remember ‘the Facebook Guy’? That was him, hastily Photoshopped onto the original blue and white logo.

We’re pretty sure he didn’t give permission for that, but should be glad the tech behemoth had at least evolved to Facebook, not version 1.0, aka Facemash.

'Facebook Guy Logo'

Remember ‘the Facebook Guy’?

In the many, many years since its inception, with all the good and bad Facebook has brought to our lives, it’s easy to forget it was invented as a way to rate how hot female Harvard students were.

Not cool.

It was in 2003, while a student at Harvard, that Zuckerberg took inspiration from the renowned university’s ‘face book’ student directory, a paper guide featuring photos and personal information about classmates.

A young Mark Zuckerberg, right, with co-founder Chris Hughes

A young Mark Zuckerberg, right, with co-founder Chris Hughes (Picture: MediaNews Group/Getty)

Facemash was an instant hit, generating 22,000 views in hours. However, it was shut down by Harvard days later, and Zuckerberg was left facing expulsion over, among other things, a breach of privacy.

Undeterred, on February 4, 2004, he unveiled Thefacebook, co-founded with four other students. Initially only available to Harvard students, it quickly grew such a following it was extended to Columbia, Stanford and Yale. Soon after it spread to all Ivy League colleges, and dropped the ‘the’. 

Then finally, on September 26, 2006, everyone over the age of 13, not just those at elite and very expensive universities, could be part of the gang.

Thefacebook screen shot

Thefacebook, back in the day (Picture: Getty)

Queue a revolution in how we communicated, shared our lives and kept track of exes.

It wasn’t the first social media platform or networking site. MySpace was a trailblazer of the genre, while Friend Reunited had already been around almost four years by this point.

Other people and things as old as Facebook

  • Millie Bobby Brown, star of Stranger Things
  • Singer Grace VanderWaal
  • Love Island’s Amber Wise
  • Classic films 50 First Dates, Along Came Polly and Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen
  • Hey Ya!, OutKast’s number one smash

But Facebook was different. 

It was an instant community. It was addictive. Had anyone responded to your last post? Did you have any new friend requests? Had your crush accepted yours? What if they never did? OMG you’d just die.

Facebook spawned a whole new language. Poking. Likes. Write on my wall. Unfriend – word of the year in 2009.

Global Facebook users

Global Facebook users (Picture: Facebook/Oberlo))

As the years passed by (20 of them, remember) users multiplied across the globe. Making friends moved online. Brief encounters that would previously have been forgotten were digitally etched into your memory, only to crop up on your timeline years later, sharing photos of partners and children you never have, or will, meet. 

In fact, you’re not entirely sure who they are, to be honest. Maybe you met them on a gap year?

But Facebook was not just a revolution for individuals. The collective effect of this mass communication has had ramifications for society that have reverberated around the world.

One, fairly major, example – a Facebook executive claimed the company was ‘responsible’ for Donald Trump winning the 2016 election, now a widely accepted view. 

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

President Donald Trump has a lot to thank Facebook for (Picture: AP)

There have been many highs and lows for the company – and Zuckerberg, now worth around 140 billion.

When it was first floated on the stock market, Facebook was valued at $104 million.

A year later, Microsoft invested $240 million in the company.

But money isn’t everything.

In 2019, a gunman live streamed his assault on a mosque in New Zealand, in which he murdered 51 people.

Facebook has become the platform of choice for many conspiracy theorists and peddlers of fake news. InfoWars’ Alex Jones repeatedly pushed claims that victims of the 2018 Parkland shooting were paid actors – something that cost him almost $1 billion.

Alex Jones Speaks To The Media Outside The Sandy Hook Trial In Waterbury, Connecticut

InfoWars founder Alex Jones (Picture: Joe Buglewicz/Getty)

But today is a celebration. There’s a lot to say about the bad things Facebook has done (we’re looking at you, Cambridge Analytica), but with more than 3 billion users, our love affair with TheFacebook is clearly still going strong.

It has brought people together, reunited old friends and family, introduced future husbands and wives. It has offered support to those in need, shown those who thought they were alone or the only one that they weren’t.

People have set up businesses, changed careers. 

A picture taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US online social media and social networking service Facebook. / AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook has evolved in giant leaps since it was launched (Picture: Getty)

And shared a whole lot of photos. Lives have been documented for the last 20 years, preserving previous memories in a vast archive far superior to any photo album or scrapbook before it. They can’t do video for starters.

So this weekend, shrug off the crushing feeling that life is finite, and let Facebook take you on a walk down memory lane.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. You look just as good now as you did in 2004.

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