When you think of transformative businesses that work online, perhaps the one that comes to mind first is Facebook. Facebook is of course a social media network that allows us to connect to people we’ve met both online and in the real world.
Today, if you meet someone at a party, you don’t need to ask for their number – you can just get their name and then look them up on Facebook! Of course, the notion of a social network was not new when Mark Zuckerberg first built Facebook. We already had the likes of MySpace and Friendster. But what was new was the way that Mark went about marketing and designing Facebook.
The ability to tag friends in photos was one of the first big innovations that made the platform stand out, for instance. And then came the inclusion of the ‘home feed’ –controversial at first, but ultimately a fantastic way to catch up on what all your friends were doing.
Smart design choices like this and a fantastic roll-out ultimately resulted in Facebook becoming larger than any single country in the world in terms of its members. Not only that, but it has genuinely changed the way that we interact with other people. Many of us, for instance, now have some idea of what our classmates from school are doing with their lives. These are people that we never would have stayed in touch with otherwise.
Likewise, many of us will now find it easier to maintain a larger social network.But Mark and co. are not happy to stop there and call it a day. They’ve already acquired Oculus with the intention of allowing us to meet our friends in a virtual setting for example. And in the future, they plan on introducing systems to help communities work together and even vote on important matters. Zuckerberg wants this to serve as a blueprint for how governments could one day handle elections and referendums.
Facebook has also been credited with helping to make the world a slightly smaller place; for helping us to gain a better understanding of people in different parts of the world. And through exposure to Western influences, it has been credited with leading to many progressive movements – including the Arab spring. Would the fall of Gaddafi have happened if it were not for Facebook? Of course, it’s not all positive either.
Facebook has also contributed to the perpetuation of ‘fake news’ – and this has even been suggested to have helped contribute to the election of President Trump! Facebook has also been a place for extreme views to be perpetuated and there has been much discussion as to whether Facebook should take a more active role in policing its feeds and groups.
The point is, whatever way you slice it, Facebook is MUCH more than simply a website that makes Mark Zuckerberg money. It’s a tool that is challenging the very nature of human interaction and of democracy.