Uncovering the tech pioneer that brought us Facebook and defined social media as we know it.

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Eighteen years ago, there was no Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat. “Social” and “media” were unmarried terms, and the internet remained a fledgling tool populated by early blogs and nascent websites. Then came Mark Zuckerberg.

A Harvard sophomore at the time, Zuckerberg launched “thefacebook.com” in 2004 as a website to connect students to one another. (He later faced lawsuits from peers at the time who accused him of stealing their idea for the site). Zuckerberg soon quit college, and his social website went on to revolutionize the world of tech, data, politics and even human connection. Today, almost 2 billion people use Facebook regularly – nearly one in four people globally.

Facebook paid $1 billion to buy rival Instagram in 2012, and the company changed its name to “Meta Platforms” nearly a decade later. True to the new moniker, the enterprise is also exploring new metaverse businesses, like $500 virtual reality headsets. As for CEO Zuckerberg, he became the world’s youngest billionaire ever at age 29, per Forbes. He’s now worth some $60 billion, making him the 15th richest person alive.

Talking Points
  • list item bullet point
    $28.8 billion
    2nd quarter 2022 revenue, a 1% drop year-over-year.
  • list item bullet point
    1.929 billion
    Monthly active Facebook users in February 2022, marking the first user decline in the platform’s 18-year-history.
  • list item bullet point
    $60 billion
    CEO Mark Zuckerberg's estimated net worth as of July 2022.
  • list item bullet point
    Employees in March 2022, a 30% increase from the year before.
  • list item bullet point
    $10 billion
    How much the company’s “metaverse” unit lost in a year.

Other rivals – Twitter, TikTok and Snap among them — have also sprouted up over the years. In particular, ByteDance-owned TikTok and its addictive bite-sized videos are really making Zuckerberg sweat. Instagram is fighting back by prioritizing a new video feature dubbed “reels” (and antagonizing many longtime Instagram influencers and users in the process). Still, all that competition is dragging on Meta’s bottom line. Earlier this year, Facebook’s active monthly user count dropped for the first time ever. And in late July, the company reported its first ever quarterly revenue drop and told staffers to expect 10% layoffs across the board. What’s more: longtime COO Sheryl Sandberg said she was leaving Meta in May, amid allegations that she was misusing company funds.

Meta’s future remains murky, but its controversial past has undoubtedly left a mark (no pun intended). Dig deeper into Meta, the tech pioneer that forever altered how we interact with family and friends online – and in-person.

11 articles in this Deep Dive