Sean Thomas

The world would be a better place without Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Getty images)

It’s sometimes difficult to remember a time before Facebook, isn’t it? It’s like trying to remember a time before the espresso martini (invented by mixologist Dick Bradsell in Soho in 1983) or a time when people smoked on planes (amazingly, that was allowed until the late 1990s), or that time, many ages past, so long ago it is lost in the fogs of ancient memory, when the Tories were relatively popular (2022).

However, there was a time before Facebook and it was 20 years ago today: 4 February 2004 was the date when a young Mark Zuckerberg launched the site from his Harvard dorm. His second stab at the idea, this time he called it thefacebook.com and he sold it as a way for students to socialise online. Right from the start ‘The Facebook’ was notably successful: by the end of June that same year, Zuck’s baby had 250,000 subscribers. By the end of the following year, it had an estimated six million users – and it was expanding at remarkable speed.

The first reason social media platforms succeed is this: they are scarily, dangerously addictive

Since then it has gone from notably successful to completely and outrageously successful, becoming one of the most triumphantly popular ‘products’ of all time. You may, like many, have a slight contemporary disdain for Facebook, seeing it as a sad ghetto for demented old friends who never understood Twitter and/or never got with the TikTokkers and who still insist on nattering into the blue-themed void about their pets, kids, cars, hobbies, piles, brilliant personal wokeness. But the fact is Facebook is still massive.

Renamed as Meta, Facebook the company is now worth about $1 trillion (£800 billion). To get your head around that number, that means Meta is bigger than the GDP of Poland, Argentina or Taiwan. If it was a national economy it would make the top 20, just behind Saudi Arabia.

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