How Facebook Works

What started as just a small network designed especially for Harvard University students is now the world’s biggest social media website. Yes, you guessed it right we are talking about Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook launched the website on the 4th of February 2004 along with fellow roommates and college students, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.

The Idea?
The idea of the website started in 2003, when as a second-year student; Zuckerberg wrote a program called “Facemash”. The idea behind this website was to compile photos from online facebooks (a face book is a student directory featuring photos and basic information) of nine houses and place two photos next to each other, asking the user to select the “hotter” one. Facemash was a big success as it garnered 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in the first four hours of online activity. Even though the administration took the website down within a few days due to breach of security, violation of privacy and copyrights, Zuckerberg had already created a social study tool based on it. In January 2004, Zuckerberg started working on the code for a new website, known as “The Facebook”. The inspiration for this came from an editorial in the Crimson about Facemash.


Facemash to Facebook
                After nearly two years, the website titled as “Facebook” was opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address. By late of 2007, Facebook had 100,000 business pages allowing companies to promote themselves and attract new customers. The idea originated as group pages, however later on a new concept called company pages was planned. On October 24, 2007, Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook. The amount? Well, $240 million. This gave the company a total implied value of nearly $15 billion. This purchase included the rights to place international advertisements on the website. Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014.


The Present Scenario
As of now, Facebook has such a wide reach that 80% of the total internet users have an account on the website. This number does not just comprise of the group of young adults or teenagers; 65% of the adult users on the network are over the age of 65 years. As mentioned earlier, companies were quick to grab on to the website since its initial years for the objective of digital marketing and currently it is the most sought after tool to connect with the customers and people in general. There are a number of benefits such as, the ability to target the desired audience, low cost structures, increase in traffic for the parent website, increase in revenue, sales and leads generation, etc.


How It Works
Operating Facebook sure seems easy and carrying out marketing activities is even easier. However how many of us really know how the website works? What goes behind those blue and white pages and how are the contents chosen for display on our timelines? The answer to all these questions, lies here:

The algorithm used by the website for sorting the posts on a user’s wall is known as EdgeRank. Everything that is published on the website is an “object” for this algorithm. Each object receives a ranking (EdgeRank) which determines whether it will feature on a user’s timeline. EdgeRank is made up of three parts; two of which are controlled by marketers. The three parts are:
a) Affinity, b) Weight and c) Time Decay. To summarise it in a formula, here is the image.

Before diving deep into the technicalities, affinity stands for the relationship with users, weight refers to how much priority is given to a post by EdgeRank based on its type and time decay means the age of the post.
Apart from these areas, the action-points for the algorithm can be showcased as under:

This is the checklists, which every post goes through before attaining a rank. Visibly the points taken into consideration are:
a) Users past interactions with the author (person posting)
b) Users past interaction with that particular post type
c) Reaction of other users for this particular post and,
d) Number of complaints/feedbacks.


Coming back to the core areas of the algorithm, in reference to affinity, Facebook introduced an update to its News Feed algorithm named‘Last Actor’. This update takes note of the last 50 interactions users have had on Facebook with a particular author and gives their content more prevalence in the said user’s newsfeed.  In reference to time decay, the website introduced another update in the News Feed algorithm called ‘Story Bumping’. With this, if a particular story is relevant for a user, it will automatically get bumped to the top of their timeline irrespective of the posts age/time decay.

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