/ Technology

Facebook is 15: are you celebrating its birthday?

Back in 2004, nobody could have foreseen how Facebook would become a platform that more than a quarter of the people on the planet now use. But how’s it coping with its teenage years?

Happy 15th birthday, Facebook! Like any teenager, you’ve had your ups and downs and your stroppy moments.

Now one of the 10 biggest companies in the world by market capitalisation, love it or loathe it, Facebook is and is set to remain a fixed part of the landscape.

I’m one of the 2.32bn monthly active users and have been since December 2006, and there’s a lot I think is actually pretty great about it.

Building connections

It’s kept me in touch with people I was at school with in Canada 40 years ago, as well as with more recent friends all around the world. I can keep up with my Italian nieces via my sister’s Facebook posts, and with other friends, both in London and further afield.

Over the past 13 years I’ve watched friends’ children grow up via Facebook. I’ve shared holiday photos and cat pictures with hundreds of friends, made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

On Friday afternoon I posted some photos from my late grandmother’s family albums of my great-great grandparents and asked my friends to share their old family photos with me.

That thread is now at 274 comments and still going strong, with my friends sharing the photos and stories of how their family members served in two world wars, left Europe to build new lives in the Commonwealth and how they’ve uncovered family secrets.

A checkered history

I know it’s got problems: we’ve all been concerned about the rise of fake news across the platform, about how Facebook handles our privacy, and about the access it’s given to third parties in the past.

Many are concerned about the relationship between teenagers’ mental health and the social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Serious concerns were raised last year about the role Cambridge Analytica played in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and subsequent general election, and how Facebook failed to protect the personal information of its users.

That resulted in the ICO fining Facebook £500,000 – the maximum it could impose under the old Data Protection Act – in what many saw as a nadir for Facebook.

Last year was very much an annus horribilis for Facebook: in addition to the row over Cambridge Analytica, it was revealed that millions of accounts had been impacted by a vulnerability that could have allowed attackers to take over users’ accounts.

Mark Zuckerberg also appeared in front of both the European parliament and the US Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee to answer questions from lawmakers about the platform.

Tighter regulation?

Certainly as this year dawned, Facebook was facing renewed calls for tighter regulation, although what that regulation might look like is a matter for debate.

It will be interesting to see in this coming year if the rumbling concerns turn into a tougher new regime for the platform, or if users turn their discontent into the solid action of leaving the platform.

So how do you feel about Facebook on its 15th birthday?

Is it time for the stroppy teenager to grow up? Do you use Facebook, and how do you use it? Let us know in the comments whether it’s a happy or an unhappy birthday for Mark Zuckerberg’s baby.

Comments
Member

Facebook is a scammers paradise. Even with paying £3.5m for the Citizen’s Advice to set up a Scam Awareness service. It won’t be enough as I can find enough scams on facebook to keep a team of 20 busy for months. If I could post images I’d be able to show you how many I had pushed on me as ads in a little over 24 hours.

Govt seriously needs to take control of these multi national companies who care nothing about their users.

Member

Hi William,

You can post images if you have uploaded them onto something like Imgur (https://imgur.com/) which will generate a url for your image. Just paste the url into the comment box and the image should load up.

We are going to update our frequently asked questions with instructions on this. If you have any issues, let me know.

Member

I don’t put any personal information on Facebook but use it to support a charity. Facebook has helped us engage with supporters and visitors and provide rapid answers to questions. I really don’t understand why people post so much about themselves and family on Facebook.

Member

I think it depends on how you manage what personal stuff you post and who can see it. I’m in touch with a lot of people on Facebook, from family and very old friends to more casual acquaintances and more recent friends, so I use lists a lot. Some things only my closest and most trusted friends can see, whereas other stuff – like cat photos – I’m fine with everyone I’m friends with seeing.

When I was freelance Facebook was invaluable, and in fact I can thank Facebook for my job at Which?, as a friend who worked here at Which? (she has since left) pinged me to flag up the job advert to me. The rest is, as they say, history!

Member

Well your cat is magnificent so of course you want everyone to see her!

I find the memories reminders interesting as it shows how I use Facebook has changed. It makes me realise how much nonsense I posted about 10 years ago. Did people really want to know I had discovered beetroot branston pickle?!

Member

I think a lot of people use it like this. I am much more interested to see what the charities I support are up to than seeing wedding photos of a friend of a friend I last saw in 1998!

Member

12 years of Facebook for me.

It can be a real force for good and I know they are keen to nurture the community building abilities of it. Undoubtedly it does have its issues, not least the ability of people to spread lies and scams.

Member

It’s a bit like knives. A positive force for good in the right hands but not so much for many.

Member

only 12 years? Lightweight 😉

Member

So true!

Member

What can I say, I have always been a just behind the curve with these things. 😉

Member

No— I am not celebrating its birthday, social media doesn’t run my life nor influence it in the slightest.
I agree with William , you want to lose all privacy and subject yourself to all sorts of trouble and all your photos are collected by US security services.

With the US divorce rate at 50 % many cases go to US courts using Facebook evidence.

Spending your life staring into a LCD screen while bumping into people is not my idea of social interaction .
Real life takes a back seat and a virtual world takes over .
Most of the locals in the village I live in actually look at you and don’t walk around with a phone in hand whereas in many cities its the opposite.

Member

Duncan said “Most of the locals in the village I live in actually look at you and don’t walk around with a phone in hand whereas in many cities its the opposite.”

I suspect that’s simply a reflection of city life vs. village life. We wave, smile and natter to everyone we encounter around here. It’s not that we know them all, but small communities house friendlier folk, simply because small communities make folk more dependent on each other and – also – they tend to feel safer. Whenever we go to London I’m always struck by the social interactive differences.

Member
DerekP says:
5 February 2019

Even in city parks, it is conventional for dog walkers and other walkers to greet and briefly converse when they meet. The dogs do this too, but usually confine their meeting and greeting to other dogs.

Member

If you stopped to smile at everyone you passed in London it would take you forever to get anywhere! Also you would get a lot of odd looks. I know, I’ve tried it. 😉

Member

I realised an odd thing recently. Dogs in London are friendlier than dogs in Northern Ireland. I think it is because dogs are often used in London as a way in to a conversation so expect people to talk to them while dogs in Northern Ireland don’t get used that way so are used to being ignored!

Member

Of course people spend a lot of time with their phones: it’s not just a phone; for many people it’s their link to their work, their families and their friends, as well as with what’s going on in the world. When you’re looking at your phone you can be working, reading a book, catching up on the news, talking to your parents or children, arranging your weekend plans, booking a holiday, catching up on a documentary, choosing the music you’re about to listen to, turning on the heating at home … honestly, it’s really not a surprise at all that people spend a lot of time with their phones.

Also, I think it’s wrong to call it antisocial: on the contrary, it’s often intensely social. You can be having a number of conversations with people who are important to you. Most people don’t stop and chat to randoms in the street, so the fact that people use their mobiles when they’re out and about hasn’t changed that.

Basically, your phone is a multifunctional device that allows you to manage and interact with lots of different parts of your life. Of course it will take a lot of your attention.

Member

Kate Bevan said Today 14:38

Of course people spend a lot of time with their phones: it’s not just a phone; for many people it’s their link to their work, their families and their friends, as well as with what’s going on in the world

We haven’t had smart ‘phones for that long; in the scheme of things we haven’t had mobile ‘phones for all that long. I wonder how people maintained contact with work, their families and their friends prior to 2000? I’ll bet some, rather daringly, took a real chance – and actually met them…

Worth reading the Asimov stories The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn, which paint a picture of the future when most humans never, ever meet in person.

Member

I wonder if technology is resulting in less face to face contact. Landline phones used to be expensive to use and not everyone had them. Now that most people have phones we can keep in touch more easily.

I used to find it amusing that people would ring or text to say they are on the train but when I’ve arranged to be picked up from the station I do this myself.

Member

I think this all depends on the person. If I ever get the chance I love meeting up with people who I have met online. So many of these people I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know before the days of social media.

It is also a life line to many people who are more isolated.

Member

yes, same – I’ve made loads of friends via online. Also, there’s a tendency to assume that online contact<face to face contact, but I don't think that's true, at least, not for me. All contact is good; it's all building and maintaining links.

Member

I don’t think I could cope with any more friends, and none of my friends or family use Twitter or Facebook. It’s a generational thing.

Member
DerekP says:
4 February 2019

As a recent adopter of Facebook, I can see that it has its uses, but I think Facebook is currently used rather like email was 20 years ago. Hence, in time, Facebook will be replaced by some more compelling social medium, just as Blackberry messaging has been.

Member

Dope/party drugs etc are already in use Derek thats compelling although marijuana is the new future big business venture ( shares available ) .
I suggest a natural remedy – —real life.
Or even eccentrically — walks in the country – hear the birds and other wildlife as nature intended.
The fresh breeze in your face and the dappled sunshine through the tall trees , lie in a bed of grass just staring at the sky – back to nature where we came from and where we should return.

Member
DerekP says:
5 February 2019

Duncan I get what you say about real life. Maybe I’ll give that a try sometime, but just now I must go and feed and groom my unicorn.

Member

Thats the point Derek social conditioning to accept big business commercial “values ” in the place of real life is now inbuilt to this society so much that arguments develop between brands .
All this was predicted many decades ago ,its obvious US commercialism took its cue from 50 ,s SF mags as I remember one about gangs dressed in one big firms outfits going to war with another group of the opposite ilk.

Whats all this “unicorn ” business ,is it a password for some other social language of non reality ?
The only reality is those that cant afford clothes with labels outside defining their level in society and those that hunger and starve and live on the streets in this well off UK.

I am going out to do the shopping and I can assure you I will be talking to people , smiling at them etc not bent over a virtual world communications device that benefits big business .

Member
DerekP says:
5 February 2019

Veering wildly back on-topic, Facebook is actually of part of “real life” these days, as are other media and social media – including of course, Which? Conversation.

Member

It all gets replaced in the end. Maybe in the future we will all communicate by telepathy. Or maybe the unicorns will take over.

Member

I have no problems with unicorns – just keep the dodo’s out.

Member

nah, it’ll be the cats. I for one welcome our feline overlords.

Member

Don’t worry – the dodo overlord boat sailed in about 1662. Unicorns though – a very real risk of them taking over.

Member

Feline underlings unite!

Member

I presume the unicorn came about because of a misunderstanding as a result of poor communication. An early equestrian safety officer may have advised that a horn should be fitted.

Member

You'd think an equestrian safety officer would be anti massive pointy thing on the front of a horse.

This is getting so off topic!

Member

I blame the person who took us off topic, Abby. 🙂

In my experience, safety officers don’t always think of all the hazards. However, they might think of the ones I’ve overlooked.

Member

It’s amazing how many people will condemn Facebook without ever having used it.

Member

As they say – don’t knock it until you try it!

Member

It is not really amazing, given the publicity that surrounds Facebook. However, people often condemn things of which they have no direct experience.

Member

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes and the amount of tracking infecting your computer and following you round the web and major government services using the info and photos on it its not “amazing ” to me.
I can assure you I will never join it.

Member

I suspect that if I opened an account I would be drawn in to the social chit-chat, trivia and family interaction that goes on in Facebook. Somehow it has never been important enough to do this and, as with Twitter, these things have passed me by and I don’t feel deprived or left out. I do believe that this anonymity has left me less vulnerable to attacks on line because I have no profile to be attacked and there is less of me around on line to grab hold of. Time is also a factor, since it is finite, and with Which Conversation and e. mail I spend enough time at the computer in a discursive mode, being a social interactor. This is a good excuse to avoid getting on with the constructive work for which the computer was made and operates to liberate my creativity. Which Conversation is a very good mental stimulant, but in the end I have to put in the effort at the keyboard or note pad to produce anything worthwhile. I would not condemn Facebook, but, as my aunt said to the tax inspector, I don’t wish to join.

Member

Donald Duck tweets. I think he’s quackers.

Member

I suspect some of us spend more time on W?C than many do on Facebook. 🙂

Member

Yes, and the company’s better.

Member

I misread wc’s comment initially and was about to offer a remedy…….. 🙁

Member

Whatsapp folks, reddit already with pinterest in myspace on the vine. 🤓

Member

🙂

Member

Over my head, Alfa.

Member

Sorry John, 😖 most of the words are social media sites.

Member

I’ve known that for years. Makes life interesting doesn’t it?

Member

I now have a list of Google Play store apps on many subjects that connect directly to Facebook when the apps are used .
For non believers I have the full network software messaging which I can post but its pretty technical .
Apps like Trip Advisor, Family Locator, Indeed Job Search, Skyscanner, Period tracker, Muslim Pro, Spotify Music -etc-etc etc.
Of course you need a smartphone for the apps .
For Derek- a simple line request (without the technical data )-
Immediately after the app is opened, the app sends the following HTTP GET request to graph.facebook.com

GET https–://graph.facebook.com/v2.11/174829003346?fields=supports_implicit_sdk_logging>>>>.

Member
DerekP says:
6 February 2019

Duncan – what do those apps do if a user doesn’t have a Facebook account?

Member

Thats the problem Derek even without an account your data is still gathered , that goes for Google as well.
Google has changed its data control base to Dublin to try and overcome the new EU rules .
My data is collected they try to hit me with local adverts and I don’t have Google anything nor Facebook.

I also found out my ISP- BT is censoring my searches and I am not talking of dark web /porno/banned organisations its mainly info gathering, I am having to use other methods .
I don’t blame BT but I do blame GCHQ for forcing them to do it.
When I get a blank page I transfer the URL to another secure app and bingo I get the website involved .
Both my normal browsers act this way even changing search engines doesn’t make any difference.

Have you got Bluetooth in your car Derek ?–if so “Snooping USA ” is making good use of it to track you even if you don’t have a smartphone.

Member

I can live with the odd advert – I don’t suffer more than that. And I really don’t care if “the US” tracks me on my journey to M&S. So what, please, real personal harm am I being caused by this data gathering?

Member
DerekP says:
6 February 2019

I’m sure Private Frazer would say “we’re all doomed” but here’s a link to a better informed discussion on this topic:

discourse.pi-hole.net/t/curious-graph-facebook-com/2178

Member

Twitter is nearly 13 years old, so not far behind Facebook. It’s interesting that some people have a strong preference for one or the other.

Member

It does seem people often have a strong preference. I’m definitely more of a Twitter person.

Member

I prefer Twitter although so far I have only looked and never tweeted. Even among my family there are people who strongly prefer one or the other – or avoid both.

Member

I prefer the humour on Twitter. The parody accounts in particular are very pleasing.

Member

I use both quite a lot. I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, so from the very early days. Twitter is more like a pub conversation that you can dip in and out of, with lots of strands going on, whereas Facebook is more like being at a party with lots of people you know where you flit around between the gang in the kitchen, the group on the sofa, the smokers out in the garden etc, all having different conversations.

Member

I have to say that my use of Facebook is declining, though I do like to see what old friends are up to.

My use of Instagram as a photo sharing platform, and also Whatsapp as a messaging platform has increased dramatically. I rarely send a text message, I’ll send a Whatsapp. What’s interesting about this is that Facebook owns both of these platforms…

Member

Patrick Steen said: Today 14:31
What’s interesting about this is that Facebook owns both of these platforms…

Look at my last post in the Lobby. Which? could have been these platforms…

Member

Although the cross over between cat/baby pictures and consumer issues is relatively limited. 😉

Member

Oh, I’m sure with a bit of creative thinking…

Member

Here are statistics on Facebook use in the UK: https://www.statista.com/statistics/507417/number-of-facebook-users-in-the-united-kingdom-uk-by-age-and-gender/ I’m surprised that the youngest group does not have more users and wondering what has taken its place in social networking for young users.

Member

Instagram and Snapchat are more popular for younger users.

Member

I remember when Bebo was popular with young users and some did not pay much attention to the minimum age requirement. I get the feeling that Twitter could outlast Facebook.

Member
DerekP says:
6 February 2019

I agree. If younger folk prefer other platforms and stick with them as they grow older, Facebook will be essentially over within a generation.

Member

Thanks to Patrick Steen’s decision to keep all Convos we now have a substantial archive. There is nothing new about questioning the wisdom of using Facebook: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/faceboook-delete-deactivate-account-the-end/

Member

As a long term computer user I have some considerable reservations about Facebook. It is not well designed software and has all the appearances of Topsy which just grew and grew. I don’t like the way it makes decisions for me and it’s not easy to find out how to override these. It’s a great pity that the Google alternative to it never took off as that would surely be better designed.

For a good many people of my generation, Facebook is their main, if not only, experience of computing. That saddens me as computers should encourage more intellectual curiosity and should make it easy for people to satisfy this. I don’t see this in Facebook.

I also have concerns about the influence Facebook is having on the political scene in the UK and elsewhere. I am old enough to remember when the Internet was first used and very serious concerns were aired in many forums about how the Internet could become a wild west of unverified information. This has turned out to be the case. The Like, Sad, Angry etc buttons just reinforce and strengthen pre-existing prejudices.

I also object to Facebook collecting and storing so much data about me. Fortunately I only ever use it on a laptop, where it does not appear to store so much information than it does for a mobile user (well over 90% of users), but I did get a shock when I downloaded all the information it had on me.

I sometimes wonder how a piece of software written by a Harvard student in his dorm in order to keep in touch with his friends has somehow taken over a lot of the world. Facebook is in trouble politically now, I think because of the naivety and youth of its founder. Would it not have been much better if Zuckerberg had done as the two founders of Google did, and hired some experienced business managers when their tool took off?

Member

The entire concept of Facebook was predicated on the sharing of personal information – so that’s what it does.

Member

Morning all. Following today’s news, I’ve updated a slightly older (but more relevant) Facebook convo to discuss the calls for regulation from MPs:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/facebook-data-protection-cambridge-analytica/