Facebook is celebrating its twelfth birthday today. On Wednesday, February 4, 2004, a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg hit “enter” on a dorm room computer (don’t know if it was Windows XP or Mac, or even Linux) and Facebook emerged, as if from some virtual womb, by a kind of immaculate conception. (February 4, 1999 was an infamous day for employees at Prudential: a big layoff, in a year of Y2K.)
Today, Facebook broadcast a live feed of Zuckerberg talking to some fellow managers at the Palo Alto headquarters. Zuckerberg made a comment that he soon found that older computer users were not as interested in personal interactions online as were college students, but seemed to hint that many mid-life and senior people did use the Internet to self-publish and be noticed, in the Web 1.0 world. Since military recruiting had become a controversy at Harvard in the months preceding his launch of Facebook, it seems to me he must have been aware of it, and it is very likely he would have found my “Web 1.0” domain with ordinary surfing in his dorm space, as it was quite prominent in search engines at the time.
Facebook, by 2008 or 2009, would completely eclipse MySpace as the most important social networking forum (and Time would name Zuckerberg as person of the year in 2010 as “the Connector”), even given all the attention “Dr. Phil” used to give to teenagers using MySpace. The idea of whitelisting people who would likely see content, and layering social interactions as to continuity, would soon run in parallel to Facebook as a self-publishing platform, for user “pages” (for “public figures”, “musicians”, etc.) and for discussion groups or forums. It strikes me that Facebook could take on the “opposing viewpoints” idea I’ve discussed here before (like Feb. 29, 2012). It certainly has the database architecture to handle apps set up to so this.
When I make comments on Facebook pages, people often make constructive secondary quality comments on mine. This is in stark contrast to my own blogs, where comments tend to be patronizing at best, or spammy (and are often filtered out, as by Akismet). For example, consider the discussion of “socialism”, “crony capitalism” and the free market here. Look here at the debate on a Vox post on voters being open to political revolution to redistribute wealth. Does this mean expropriation?
I would even buy the idea that Facebook has saved Section 230, and the world of user-generated content as we know it.
In 2020, Zuckerberg will be old enough to run for president. He could put Donald Trump to shame if he wanted to.