The founders initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students and subsequently Columbia, Stanford, and Yale students. Membership was eventually expanded to the remaining Ivy League schools, MIT, and higher education institutions in the Boston area. Facebook gradually added support for students at various other universities, and eventually to high school students. Since 2006, anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook, though variations exist in this requirement, depending on local laws. The name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students. Facebook held its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012, valuing the company at $104 billion, the largest valuation to date for a newly listed public company. It began selling stock to the public three months later. Facebook makes most of its revenue from advertisements that appear onscreen.

The Facebook service can be accessed from devices with Internet connectivity, such as personal computers, tablets and smartphones. After registering, users can create a customized profile revealing information about themselves. Users can post text, photos and multimedia of their own devising and share it with other users as “friends”. Users can use various embedded apps, and receive notifications of their friends’ activities. Users may join common-interest groups.

Facebook had more than 2.2 billion monthly active users as of January 2018. It receives prominent media coverage, including many controversies such as user privacy[10][11] and psychological effects. The company has faced intense pressure over censorship and over content that some users find objectionable.

Facebook offers other products and services. It acquired Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus Rift and independently developed Facebook Messenger.

Zuckerberg built a website called “Facemash” in 2003 while attending Harvard University. The site was comparable to Hot or Not and used “photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the “hotter” person”.[12] Facemash attracted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours.[13] The site was sent to several campus group list-servers, but was shut down a few days later by Harvard administration. Zuckerberg faced expulsion and was charged with breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy. Ultimately, the charges were dropped.[12] Zuckerberg expanded on this project that semester by creating a social study tool ahead of an art history final exam. He uploaded all art images to a website, each of which was accompanied by a comments section, then shared the site with his classmates.[14]

A “face book” is a student directory featuring photos and personal information.[13] In 2003, Harvard had only a paper version[15] along with private online directories.[12][16] Zuckerberg told the Crimson, “Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard. … I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week.”[16] In January 2004, Zuckerberg coded a new website, known as “TheFacebook”, inspired by a Crimson editorial about Facemash, stating, “It is clear that the technology needed to create a centralized Website is readily available … the benefits are many.” Zuckerberg met with Harvard student Eduardo Saverin, and each of them agreed to invest $1,000 in the site.[17] On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “TheFacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com

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