Happy 5th Birthday Facebook!

Today is Facebook’s 5th birthday. Hard to believe it has been around that long, actually. Over 150 million people have joined since launch, and Facebook is now a household name. I remain a regular user of the site, though I’m not nearly as active there as I once was. I guess you could say the buzz eventually subsided for me.

I am continually amazed at how many people have Facebook accounts. Almost my entire family does – even my Grandma, who just joined last week! And it’s more than just having an account. My parents are very active on the site, far more active than I am. This is important.

Why? Because of Facebook Connect. I’ve been playing with it recently, and I’m impressed with how easy it is to integrate into a website. Essentially Facebook Connect is a single-sign-on service. Instead of creating a new account at a website, you can just login with your Facebook credentials. Additionally, the site can publish stories to your feed if you allow it. It’s pretty slick.

Facebook Connect needs lots of active users to be successful. It also needs participating websites. Though there aren’t very many yet, I expect adoption to pick up. It’s easier to decide on Facebook Connect than on something like OpenID because you don’t have to explain what it is, and chances are your users already have a Facebook account anyway.

It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook changes over the next five years. I’d bet that Facebook Connect will play a big part in any changes.

For more on Facebook’s 5th birthday and some up-to-date statistics, check out Hitwise and VentureBeat.

6 thoughts on “Happy 5th Birthday Facebook!

  1. I was excited about Facebook Connect when Facebook announced its public launch. However, after looking into it, that excitement has succumbed to disillusionment.

    My problem with the Facebook Connect library is that it relies entirely on JavaScript to function. I understand why this is so, and I also know that for the majority of people, this won’t be a problem. However, it’s an accessibility concern for those who don’t have JavaScript enabled.

    After looking into the problem further, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to emulate the functionality of Facebook Connect using Facebook’s server side library, minus the fancy lightboxes (which don’t tickle me all that much anyway). So that’s probably what I’ll do when it comes to implementing Facebook Connect on my site. But that’s going to take more work than if they just offered a fallback option for when JavaScript isn’t available.

  2. You’re right Ben, it does take a bit more work to do if you’re concerned about accessibility. It depends on your target market, I guess! I think most of the sites I’d develop fall into the “users definitely have JS enabled” category.

  3. I’m very uncomfortable getting into that mindset, which is largely why I choose not to do web development professionally. We seem to be at a critical point in the evolution of the Web and the languages that underly it. We’ve worked so hard to recover from the Dark Ages of AOL, Netscape, and Internet Explorer, but now it seems like we are on the verge of plunging back over the precipice of proprietary design.

    Concern about accessibility should never be preceded by an _if_. There’s a very limited number of websites that would say, “My target audience consists of Firefox and Opera users who speak English as a first language, are sighted, and can hear.” Likewise, “users who have JS enabled” seems like a poor demographic to target. It excludes many people who would otherwise be interested in the product or service offered by the site.

    Accessibility evangelism aside, it’s the fact that Facebook has made such a decision _for_ me, as a developer, that I resent. Facebook Connect is part of Facebook’s larger gambit to “open up” to the public Web. I applaud them for that effort. But by making Facebook Connect available in such a limited form, they are implicitly saying that accessibility isn’t their concern in this case. To me, an non-accessible Web is _not_ an “open” Web. If the Web is to remain open, it must remain open to everyone.

  4. Man, time flies. If Facebook is 5 years old, I’ve probably been using it for at least 4 1/2 years, back when it was thefacebook.com and your wall was basically a text box that everyone could add to and subtract from.

    I find that I don’t use it nearly as much anymore since graduating from University, but it is still definitely invaluable for keeping up with old friends.

  5. Hey Ben, I agree with you, don’t get me wrong. I think accessibility is an important consideration.

    However, I think accessibility technology has some catching up to do. I would rather see Facebook forge ahead as they have and hopefully contribute to emerging standards such as WAI-ARIA than go with the lowest common denominator just to be accessible.

    http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria

  6. Ben, I think you’re on crack. Ok, that’s a bit extreme lol…. but I still think you’re taking this accessibility thing a little too far.

    I’m very comfortable saying…

    “My target audience consists of , Firefox and Opera users who speak English as a first language, are sighted, can hear and who have JS enabled.”

    I feel I might be ruling out a couple of % of potential users in that statement, but that’s life. I’m certainly not going to loose any sleep over it.

    Now, using JS/some weird thing for the sake of it is stupid. Using it to implement something cool and worthwhile (Facebook Connect) makes sense to me.

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