Facebook turned 10 this week, and it celebrated by giving every user the gift of making their own Facebook movie. These mini-biopics edit each user’s site history into a one-minute montage set to a plinking piano soundtrack, the sort of epic, heart-squeezing slush you hear on nature documentaries. They begin with birth, or the date one joined Facebook. They move through “first moments” and “most liked posts”, and end with a big blue Like symbol. Really, Facebook, you shouldn’t have.
They have gone down very well. Hundreds of millions of people have shared their virtual life stories this week. Even if it is very obviously a marketing ploy, a means to generate clicks, user data and goodwill, people like it. And why not? It’s a nice thing – celebratory, cute, even a bit moving.
It’s nice to see your friends’ major life moments highlighted, even if those major life moments have been decided on by Facebook and how many likes a moment got. So you might end up with a picture of Andy Murray winning Wimbledon being inserted into your personal story. Who cares? Look! It’s a movie about me!
Twitter has had a less celebratory week. On Wednesday night, the social networking site reported losses of $645m in 2013. The results led to a drop in the company’s share price of more than 23 per cent; $6.5bn has been wiped off its value. It is not attracting new users at the rate it expected and those users it has are not checking in as often as they used to. Is this the beginning of the end for Twitter? Probably not; it is just the beginning. Facebook spent years in the red before it turned a real profit.
Still, something is going wrong so something must be done. According to one analyst, only Mummy can save Twitter now: “Is your mom on Facebook? Yes. You ask that same question about Twitter, the answer is almost always no. The question is: can they ever become mainstream like Facebook is?” While tech-heads have been predicting Facebook’s demise for years, it has reached the age of 10, which is about 70 in internet years. It has five times as many active monthly users as Twitter. Last year its profits hit $1.5bn.
For all of its revolution-starting and news-generating and spats, Twitter has yet to capture this valuable “Mom demographic”, which has loyalty, time and disposable income to hand. Perhaps it is because while Facebook is all about being inclusive and sharing – whether baby pictures or holiday memories – Twitter is harder, more exclusive and still mainly consists of journalists shouting at one another. Its 140-character limit demands wit and pithiness. It also breeds snark and trolls.
The real clue is in those movies, though. Facebook knows that social networking is less about networking than it is about cultivating a social persona. It makes its users feel like stars in their own film while Twitter makes them feel like wallflowers at a party. The results speak for themselves. Facebook makes £5.11 per active user per month; Twitter makes less than half that. While Facebook pours its every effort into knowing everything about its biggest asset – its users – so that it can profit from them, Twitter still knows relatively little. In future, then, users can probably look forward to far more “personalised” features on Twitter, whether they want them or not. Because it’s in the minutiae of our lives, the background details to our personal movies, that the real social networking cash lies.
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images. That’s 4,000 photos uploaded every second and around 4 per cent of all photos ever taken, according to a study by Nokia.
Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue," said Zuckerberg in an interview with the New Yorker. The colour is so popular that Facebook’s campus store even sells nail polish in the exact shade named ‘social butterfly blue’.
Zuckerberg's famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day. However, Zuckerberg is known to dress up when the occasion demands it. For a 2011 event with Barack Obama he showed up in a suit, with the president introducing himself by saying: “I’m Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.”
In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company. Zuckerberg reportedly turned it down by saying “I don't know what I could do with the money. I'd just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have.” He definitely made the right choice: Facebook is now valued at $135 billion.
A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users' photos showed someone drinking or inebriated. However, the poll did ask users to estimate the number of boozy snaps themselves, and like all things on Facebook, there might have been an element of exaggeration involved.
Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.
More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online. The exact figures may be an estimate, but with just under 8 trillion Facebook messages sent in 2013 it’s certain that a substantial body of evidence is to be found on the social network.
Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times - once in 2012 and the rest in 2009. Although Facebook dwarfs twitter in terms of active users (1 billion compared with 200 million by some accounts) the micro-blogging site handles breaking news better. Facebook has introduced trending topics and hashtags to counter this.
Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens. Unfortunately, despite this forward thinking approach, the document was killed by politicians in mid-2013 for various (mostly technical) reasons.
You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Check the bottom of the column on the right of your newsfeed and click your current language to change!