Facebook at five


Hooray! Today, Facebook turns five years old. In honor of its birthday, let’s take a moment to reflect on those past years, and what’s ahead for the world’s largest social networking site.

Since its debut in 2004, Facebook has taken its place at the vanguard of a new trend in how we see and use the Internet.

And yet, on the surface, there’s not much that Facebook and its peers do that appears even remotely new. Social networking? Old hat: We’ve had access to chatrooms, personal home pages and online communities since the days of BBSes and Usenet. Reconnecting with old friends? Heck, Classmates.com has been around practically forever.

But it took the arrival of Friendster, MySpace and especially Facebook to make social networking a popular phenomenon — not just an Internet phenomenon.

It’s too easy to forget that despite the vast numbers of people considered “online,” most never ventured too far from their Web portals and e-mail clients. For those users, Facebook offered something new and important to do online: connect meaningfully, quickly and easily, with real-world friends. Old friends, college buddies, former coworkers — you name it. Net-savvy and technophobe alike. Eventually, almost everyone you knew was on Facebook or a site like it. (Am I right, or am I right?)

Still, like all five-year-olds, Facebook needs a lot of attention.

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