BackgroundFacebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg and associates in 2004, has become the most popular social networking site on the Web, with literally hundreds of millions of registered users.
More than 900 million people use Facebook from all over the world, and more are signing up every single day. This staggering amount of users makes Facebook the largest social networking site in the world, and puts it on par with the popularity of Google. Facebook users use the service primarily to stay in contact with friends and family, share photos and personal information, or share content they've found on the Web.
As with many other community-oriented websites, Facebook requires registration of your name and email address. After initial registration, users create a profile that they can personalize as much as they want: images, personal information, what they like, what they don't like, etc. In addition, users can create and join groups (friends, family, work-related, and more), find people they are already connected to via outside email contact lists, and connect with friends of people that they already know.
Profile: Many people enjoy customizing their profiles with all sorts of information, thereby making their online presence even more interesting to their followers. This could include "likes" (groups, people, causes, celebrities, etc. that the user has liked and therefore given permission to include their flow of content on their personal news feed), photos, and contact information.
News Feed: The news feed is simply the stream of information and content from all contacts that appears on every single Facebook user's home page.
Photos: More photos are uploaded here that to anywhere else on the Web. Users can upload an unlimited amount of images to share with their contacts.
Groups: Whether you're looking for a group about knitting patterns or dog training, you're likely to find it here. Groups are a great way to find like-minded people that want to talk about the same things you do. Activity from your Groups shows up within your news feed on your personal Wall.
Personal Messages: You can always write directly on someone else's Wall, but these messages are visible to everyone who is friends with both you and that person. Facebook has its own internal, private messaging service that makes it easy to keep things private.
Events: Bridal showers, birthday parties, and sports events all make use of the Events feature, which makes it easy for anyone to create an event, invite who they want, and keep track of who's coming (and not coming).
Apps: There are thousands of software applications that use Facebook's immense social platform as a foundation for their own services. These apps range from polls to complex HTML creators, and can be a very powerful way to build an even more personalized Facebook experience.
Pages: Many businesses, non-profits, celebrity figures, and organizations have found it prudent to create Pages as a way to keep in touch with fans. These pages range from simple placeholders with littler personal interaction to bustling communities that share experiences and commiserate on content.
Facebook's track record of making user privacy a priority has not been without blame. Many improvements and changes to the site are rolled out without a full understanding of the impact that these changes could have on user privacy.
That being said, every user has the ability to make their profiles completely private and unsearchable from anyone except those that they give explicit permission to. It is strongly advised that users use common sense and enable their profiles to be as private as possible in order to guard against potential intrusions of privacy.
Impact on the Web
With the amount of time that people all over the world are currently spending on Facebook, it's inevitable that this would have some kind of impact on how we use the Web. Almost every website we visit nowadays has social networking integration, enabling content to be shared instantly within our contacts.
People from every walk of life use Facebook as part of their daily lives: students, businesses, non-profits, celebrities, moms, dads. It has served as a major catalyst in improving communication and changing the way we use the Web.