Facebook: A Look Back at 2010

In terms of revolutionizing the way humans communicate on a global scale, Facebook has been compared to the invention of the telephone.  The largest social networking site and the third largest site on the entire  webs  in terms of revenue, Facebook is infinitely more than just a communication device:  it has become a place for individuals to define themselves in the public arena.

From how many “friends” they have to what cereals they “like” and how many “chickens” they’ve raised in FarmVille, people’s online personas have become as dear to them as their three dimensional selves.  Sometimes moreso.  With 2011 on the horizon, let’s have a look at some of Facebook’s successes and failures of 2010.

A few fantastic figures

  • Facebook now boasts over 1,700 employees worldwide, with offices in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Malaysia, Sweden, Japan and Australia.
  • Acquired more than 500 million active users who spend a total of 700 billion minutes on the site each month.
  • Over 30 billion pieces of content gets shared in the form of videos, links, news, blogs, and photos each month.
  • 200 million users access Facebook through their mobile devices.  Mobile users are on Facebook twice as often as non-mobiles.
  • More than 2 million websites have integrated with the Facebook Platform.
  • In November of this year, coming in at $41 billion, Facebook received a bronze medal in the “Estimated Value of a Website” category, This places it behind Amazon at $74.4 billion and Google at $192.9 billion.

Relationships

  • Facebook has become the new go-to source for divorce lawyers looking for case evidence.  In June the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a survey among its 1,600 members, 81% of whom have used social networking sites for their cases, and 66% of those have cited Facebook as their online source for evidence of extra-marital activities.
  • A 1,000-person survey conducted by SNAP Interactive revealed that 25% of respondents have been dumped via Facebook.
  • A 1,800-person survey was conducted by Dr Rebecca Mathews, a researcher at the Australian Psychological Society (APS).  Her results indicated that 70% of people surveyed felt that Facebook brought them closer to friends and family living far away, and 52% of users between the ages of 18 and 30 felt that they would lose total contact with their friends if Facebook suddenly shut down.

Privacy

When you ask most users what they know about Facebook’s privacy policy, you’re going to receive a lot of blank stares.  Even people who know about the privacy policy don’t understand what the hell it means.

Since December of last year, Facebook has been under the heat lamps when it decided to make everyone’s information open to the public by default. Of course, they also did not notify their users that this information was now available to third-parties (such as advertisers).

And for those who were in the know, you practically needed a degree in astrophysics to understand how to set your settings to private.  This would eventually catch up to them in 2010.

  • In May,  the Norwegian Consumer Council filed a complaint with the Data Inspectorate against Facebook for breaching the Data Protection Act.
  • That same month, EPIC and 14 privacy and consumer protection organizations filed formal complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Facebook of using sneaky trade practices and violating consumer protection laws.  Facebook users, bloggers, Senators and various news organizations expressed their outrage in these complaints, and a letter was sent to Congress urging the Senate to keep a close eye on the FTC’s investigation.
  • Facebook responded to the endless piles of user’s concerns, by once again changing their privacy settings.  These changes would give users the ability to control who can see their information and the content they share, while giving them the ability to opt-out of third-party applications or websites.  Changing these settings is even more complex than last year’s “improvements.”

Lawsuits

In the last year alone, Facebook has been no stranger to litigious activity. Most recently,this November, Facebook filed a lawsuit against its satirist counterpart, Lamebook, for trademark infringement. Historically, whenever anyone comes close to infringing on the Facebook patent, they would first receive a cease-and-desist letter, giving them the opportunity to do just that before any legal action is necessary.

Lamebook however decided to strike first, seeking an injunction to stop Facebook from suing under the protection of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.  Skipping the ole cease- and-desist, a fed up Facebook went right ahead and filed suit.

Then there was Paul Ceglia, a wood pellet fuel company owner who filed a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg in June, claiming that they both signed a contract back in 2003 which entitles Ceglia to 50% of Facebook’s revenue, with 1% interest every day after Jan.1 2004.  Zuckerberg says he didn’t do it, and the two managed to settle out of court.

Game Changing Features

Facebook launches Places, a location based service which allows users to share where they are, where they shop, eat, drink, watch movies, whatever, wherever.

A step beyond Places Facebook launches Deals, a feature that lets you know which surrounding businesses are having sales and making special offers.  When you click Places on your mobile phone, you can see which nearby shops and restaurants etc have any deals.  Once you check in, all you have to do is walk into the shop, show the cahier your phone and claim your prize.  There are 4 types of deals:  Individual, Friend, Loyalty, and Charity.  You can claim the first two simply by checking in, sharing with your FB buds, who then in turn check in themselves.  The Loyalty Deal applies after you’ve checked in to the same business multiple times, and the Charity Deal is for companies who will make a charitable donation when you check in.

An absolutely brilliant move earlier in 2010 was the addition of the “Like” widget in April.  2 million websites have added the Like button to their pages.

Every time someone “likes” something, whether it’s another Facebook user’s comment, a YouTube video, a news story, a professional athlete, a new book or a recipe for chicken pot pie, a link is created between you, Facebook, and the object of your liking.  All your likes are gathered and analyzed, creating an overall profile for advertisers to target whenever you login to Facebook.  It also provides companies with valuable information about the type of people who visit their sites, how long they stay on the site and their clickthrough rates.

When it comes to news referral, thanks the addition of the like button, ABC News has reported 190% increase in traffic, Gawker reported a 200% increase while Sporting News has enjoyed an incredible 500% increase in traffic. It would be safe to say that these companies “like” this.

In the Media

In an attempt to improve the educational system in America, particularly in Newark New Jersey,  Mark Zuckerburg donated $100 million dollars to the cities’ schools.  His attempt to do this anonymously was thwarted by the television superforce known as Oprah Winfrey.  She brought him on the show, and here is a sample of the interview.

On October 1st, The Social Network was released in movie theaters across North America.  With Kevin Spacey, Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher punching in as executive producer, screenwriter and director respectively, along with an ensemble cast of talented actors, the film was destined for greatness from day 1.

The film based around Zuckerburg and the founding of his billion dollar baby not only grossed over $130 million worldwide, but was more-than-warmly received by the critics.  Roger Ebert gave it four stars, saying the film “ has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive.”  It received a 97% positive review rate on Rotten Tomatoes, and is one of the highest rate films on Metacritic of all time.

All in all, I think I can speak for our young friend Mr. Zuckerburg here when I say that despite a few lawsuits and a privacy scandal, it’s been one hell of a good year for Facebook.

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