On this day: Facebook is founded

February 4 2004: Mark Zuckerberg launches thefacebook.com

By Jennifer Lipman, February 4, 2011

Who can remember a time when a wall was just a wall, when photos were private not tagged for the world to see, and when events had to be organised with phone calls or paper invitations?

Mark Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old Jewish student working out of his Harvard dorm-room when he founded the social network that became Facebook.

Now with more than 600 million users around the globe, Facebook appears in every language and appeals to almost every demographic. It is credited with having helped Barack Obama win election as US President in 2008, and has emerged as a vital tool for protest in Iran and Egypt.

Its creation is the stuff of legend – the internet prank intended as revenge against an ex-girlfriend that spawned one of the most influential websites in history. The subject of a book by Ben Mezrich, now an Oscar-winning film directed by Aaron Sorkin, Facebook has made its shy founder famous and changed social life forever.

The site has an estimated annual revenue of more than $2 billion. Zuckerberg, now 26, is believed to have a personal fortune of $6.9 billion. He regularly appears on Forbes’ lists of influence and wealth, and last December became Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Facebook’s remarkable trajectory has not been without casualties – Zuckerberg’s friendship with his business partner Eduardo Saverin is no more, while he has faced legal action from a group who claim he stole the idea. It has emerged as a place for socialising and campaigning, but also a hotbed for extremism and abuse. It has, essentially, changed the world.

What Ben Mezrich told the JC: “Mark and his friends were geeky, brilliant kids who had their faces pressed up against the glass…On the other side was the social scene they weren't really a part of, and they created their own club, an exclusive, incredibly social place where they could be kings….There are these groups [at Harvard] where there is this old world aristocracy going on. People like Mark couldn't really be a part of that."

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:25am, February 4 2011