Happy birthday Facebook

Birthday cake to say Happy Birthday Facebook

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

4th February 2016 at 4:12pm

From college dorm to corporate domination, the Facebook story is one of those rags to riches tales we all love and Hollywood laps up. And today is actually a bit of a celebration for the internet sensation as it marks its twelfth anniversary.

It’s only been just over a decade since the pioneering Mark Zuckerberg opened thefacebook.com

Twelve today

Given its size, wealth and influence, it’s hard to believe it’s only been just over a decade since the pioneering Mark Zuckerberg opened thefacebook.com (its earliest manifestation) to every student at Harvard.

And that today this billion dollar Internet company, that the little campus website would become, will be lighting the candles on its 12th birthday cake.

From humble beginnings

So why is it that this brainchild of a self-confessed computer geek has become the dominant player in a long-established and crowded marketplace?

Facebook was actually not the first social-networking service of its kind and the idea of computer-mediated social networking is not something that has just emerged during this millennium, it in fact dates back to the Californian counterculture of the 1970s.

The history of the field is littered with casualties, with few if any managing the dominance and longevity Facebook has achieved, classic examples being MySpace and Six degrees, whose initial popularity quickly waned. LinkedIn is maybe the exception, as they seemed to have found their own niche in the social media ecosystem.

Technical virtuosity and exclusivity

Who’s the daddy?

When Facebook emerged, the most obvious comparison was with MySpace, but even then it was clear that they were not direct competitors.

MySpace was akin to the bad boy on the block – a little crazy, wild and often weird; it had a significant influence on pop culture and music of the time.

Facebook, by contrast, was conservative and maybe a little dull. And it was exclusive – you had to be a student at an elite US university to be a member.

With a market value of $253 billion, Facebook is now the ninth-biggest company in the Standard & Poor’s 500

When comparing the two it was almost as if real world stereotypes had managed to drift into cyberspace.

This was no better personified than by a cartoon ran in the New Yorker that showed the preppy daughter of a Wall Street banker introducing her scruffy boyfriend to her parents. “Don’t you think he’s a bit too MySpacey for you, dear?” says her mother.

Shrewd thinking

However Facebook triumphed and this was the result of a number of factors. An astute founder surrounded by an equally astute staff, a focused marketing strategy and the wisdom to play to their strengths – technical virtuosity and exclusivity.

They never diluted their brand or stretched themselves by trying to be all things to all men as others had done. Facebook slowly developed its brand and popularity amongst its heartland, the American collegiate, where they steadily opened the doors to less elite universities, broadening their base before opening their doors on the world.

And the figures speak for themselves – with a market value of $253 billion, Facebook is now the ninth-biggest company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 – bigger than Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co, which took decades to grow as valuable.

The measure of success

The Facebook story and the Zuckerberg success play a lot around the beauty of self-empowerment.

Official figures show 15 per cent of those ‘in employment’ are now self-employed

He took a dream and made it a reality; he turned a simple idea into a success through personal belief, hard work and a generous measure of enthusiasm.

And it would appear more of us than ever are taking a leaf out of the Zuckerberg book by becoming self-empowered and harnessing a similar entrepreneurial spirit. Official figures show 15 per cent of those ‘in employment’ are now self-employed – and with just over half of self-employed individuals aged 25-49 and a third aged 50-64, age seems no barrier branching out.

Some could argue this rise in self-employment might be largely the result of the recession of 2008/9, with laid-off workers “freelancing” for a while as they looked for a new permanent job. But the labour market is incredibly buoyant, and with jobs being created in record numbers, it would appear many are deliberately choosing self-employment.

With initiatives such as the “sharing” economy, pioneered by the likes of Uber and Airbnb, opening up vast new opportunities for working for yourself, the opportunities seem to be there. And technology is making it easier too, with the spread of broadband you can work from home or explore fresh online ventures, and all this without the overheads of needing premises.

Research the possibilities

If you are one of those considering a leap into world of the self-employed and wondering where you can find out more, some early online sleuthing could reap benefits.

Every chance we can accomplish our goals if we set our minds to it

For starters, it’s well worth having a look at an article by the small business portal bytestart.co.uk ‘5 things you must do when you go self-employed’, they will give you some valuable pointers and direction. GOV.UK can help too, it has a veritable smorgasbord of information on working for yourself, and citizens advice are no shrinking violets either when it comes to the subject.

Seize the day

While we might not all turn out to be Facebook philanthropists like Zuckerberg or budding Bransons, there is still every chance we can accomplish our goals if we set our minds to it. So if you are reading this and toying with the notion of being a self-empowered success, then this quote from the celebrated author Stephen King might help provide some inspiration “you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will”. Good luck.

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The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice and is based on our understanding in February 2016.