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Here’s what Facebook looked like 20 years ago

Facebook was launched on 4 February, 2004 in Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard University dorm room and has changed the way we communicate - as well as what it looks like.

st/facebook Message posted at an online college community called 'thefacebook.com.  (Photo by Juana Arias/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
TheFacebook was very different to the Facebook design as we know it today (Photo by Juana Arias/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Facebook has changed a great deal since the site first went live on 4 February, 2004 in Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard University dorm room.

Twenty years ago, the site’s membership was initially limited to Harvard students - with no Like button and no News Feed.

Launched by Zuckerberg and Harvard friends, the site (then known as ‘the Facebook’) rapidly expanded to other Ivy League universities, then to other American universities. By June 2004, the site had secured an investment of $500,000 from Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist.

Facebook turns 20 - read more

The first version of Facebook was nothing like the site we see today (facebook)
The first version of Facebook was nothing like the site we see today (facebook)
st/facebook Melissa Doman site at an online college community called 'thefacebook.com.  (Photo by Juana Arias/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The orginal site let users view each other's profiles, but there was no News Feed (Photo by Juana Arias/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The launch of The Wall was a pivotal moment for Facebook (Facebook)
The launch of The Wall was a pivotal moment for Facebook (Facebook)

By September 2004, features that would be recognisable to users today began to appear - such as The Wall. This was the predecessor to the News Feed and functioned as an area of a profile where friends can post and respond to public messages.

The Wall was key to luring people back to check their Facebook pages often.

Within a year, the site had hit a million users, and a year after launch the site officially dropped the ‘the’ and simply became Facebook.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, the network gradually widened, with universities in territories including Australia, New Zealand and Ireland allowed to join - and Zuckerberg launching a secondary school version in September 2005.

Facebook finally opened the floodgates in 2006, allowing anyone aged 13 or older with a valid email address to join.

By 2006, some of the recognisable parts of Facebook had begun to materialise (Facebook)
By 2006, some of the recognisable parts of Facebook had begun to materialise (Facebook)

But the Facebook of 2006 was still very different.

News Feed only launched in September 2006, bringing a stream of relationship changes, uploaded pictures and what groups friends had joined.

It was greeted by an overwhelmingly negative response, with a group, ‘Students Against Facebook News Feed’ gaining more than 100,000 members within a day of launch.

Calls to boycott Facebook spread across the network, and few seemed in favour of the change.

Zuckerberg replied on the network asking users to ‘calm down’ and saying, ‘We didn’t take away any privacy options.’

By December 2006, Facebook had 12 million users.

This Tuesday, April 26, 2011 photo shows Kyra Wilson playing Farmville on her computer at her home in New Haven, Vt. Wilson, a Vermont artist, is one of a small group that has mastered the agriculture planning game, Farmville. She just added a third virtual castle to her farm, which already has a French palace and a winery. She sells virtual wine to pay for the farm's expansion. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
Kyra Wilson playing Farmville on her computer at her home in Vermont (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

The following year, Facebook launched Platform, which allowed outside organisations to make their own games, quizzes and tools for Facebook.

Platform led to the rise of companies such as Zynga and games such as Farmville, which rapidly rose to having 10 million daily players - by 2011, 19% of Facebook’s revenue came from Zynga and the end of the year saw the company boast around 845 million users.

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In 2007, posting videos to Feed became possible (the site now offers a mix of short video called Reelsm longer videos and even adverts).

The changes have continued.

Facebook Chat launched in March 2008, evolving into the separate Messenger app later. The iconic Like button was activated in February 2009 and "Cover" photos were introduced in 2011.

Meta logo displayed on a phone screen and Meta page on Facebook displayed on a laptop screen are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on October 29, 2021. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Facebook rebranded as Meta after a series of scandals (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By 2012, the site had hit one billion users, and hit the two billion user milestone in 2017 - a level it still hovers around now.

In October 2021, the company announced it would rebrand as Meta, a name change it said underscored its ambitions to refocus on building the "metaverse." It came as the company battled criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its platforms.

In 2023, Facebook announced new products including generative AI in the form of the Imagine tool.