Facebook Was Born 10 Years Ago Today. Here’s What It Looked Like.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 3 2014 9:12 PM

Facebook Was Born 10 Years Ago. Here’s What It Looked Like.

On Feb. 4, 2004, in his Harvard dorm room, Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com, a website where college students could post information about themselves, trade messages, and become virtual “friends” with one another. It was entering an already-crowded field of social networks. Friendster was the world’s most popular at the time, but it was about to be overtaken by a one-year-old upstart called MySpace. Google had launched Orkut just weeks earlier.  

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Facebook was different because it was only for college students, featured a clean layout devoid of spam, and had no immediate plans to make money. It was an instant hit. “I assume I’ll eventually make something profitable,” Zuckerberg shrugged in a June 2004 interview with the Harvard student newspaper. (It took him a while, but Facebook turned its first profit in 2009, and last year it reported a profit of some $1.5 billion on nearly $8 billion in revenues.)

By December the site had 1 million users, and it hadn’t even added its photo-upload feature yet.  Here’s what thefacebook.com looked like in 2005, a year after it launched:

Facebook profile page from 2005
A Facebook profile page from 2005.

Image courtesy of Facebook

Facebook Groups page from 2005
A Facebook Groups page from 2005.

Image courtesy of Facebook

Advertisement

Over the years it piled on the features. Some, like News Feed and the like button, changed the Internet forever. Others, like Facebook Gifts, not so much. For its 10th birthday, Facebook has put together a timeline of significant events in its own history. It reflects a bit of a selective memory—you won’t find Gifts, Beacon, or the site’s short-lived experiment with democracy on this timeline. But then, that’s part of what made Facebook so appealing in the first place: the ability to edit your own image to your liking.

Facebook Timeline: first 10 years
Facebook made a Timeline of its first 10 years as a company.

Image courtesy of Facebook

The timeline is one of several features that Facebook released Monday night, on the eve of its anniversary. On Tuedsay it will unveil a product called “A Look Back” that lets users make a personal movie or slideshow of their favorite moments in their lives since they joined Facebook. The company also launched a slick new iPhone app, Paper, in the App Store on Monday.

Here’s Zuckerberg’s statement on the eve of his brainchild’s 10th birthday:

It's been an incredible journey so far, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it. It's been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and responsibility to connect everyone and to keep serving the community as best we can.

Previously in Slate

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.