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Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

is the Internet’s largest social network.

Facebook in September 2012 and was the in the United States, behind Google, as of 2011. Its mobile platform had  in 2013. It is also the to the web’s largest portals, such as Yahoo and MSN.

Facebook , of which 85% came from advertising. The remainder of its revenue comes from payments, many from game developers using the platform — particularly from Zynga, which was the . While some revenue had come from virtual goods such as Facebook Gifts, the Facebook Gift Shop . Facebook in 2009 and made in 2011. It went public in May 2012, though its initial public offering was marred by of giving incomplete information to investors, leading to .

Facebook was by four Harvard University students led by , who remains its CEO. Facebook began as a network for Harvard students but other colleges in late 2004, high school students in 2005, in 2006, and later that year.

Facebook in 2006, a development for which it . Several observers have seen the central role of the News Feed, as well as  such as , as an attempt to of the microblogging platform . Facebook in 2014 that .

Facebook also has an , which allows third-party developers to use the feed inside their own applications. In 2011, Facebook added a shorter-form feed called , as well as a more comprehensive profile page called . It also bought the link-sharing and conversation services in 2014.

In 2008, Facebook , which allowed outside sites to extend users’ Facebook login to their own sites. Facebook Connect was in April 2010.

In April 2010, Facebook for sites across the web, spreading its interface and its users’ personalized network to . The system also about its users. These integration efforts across the web have been by as an attempt to for most of the web’s users. In 2014, Facebook to enable app-to-app linking.

Facebook has also with its Open Graph search engine. In 2013, it expanded its Open Graph search into a full search engine with , which put it in , along with such as LinkedIn and Yelp. Graph Search expanded to later that year. In 2010, it began allowing users to share their geographic locations with . It in late 2011 and three months later.

Facebook the mobile photo sharing company Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to , responding to an area in which . Instagram in November 2012. The following month, it to allow the company to sell users’ images to advertisers without notifying them, prompting a . Instagram by clarifying the changes and vowing to adjust them. The service was used as a for sharing images during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, with on that hashtag.

Facebook for a total value of $19 billion in 2014 in one of the largest tech company acquisitions in recent history. The deal was variously seen as an effort by Facebook to , to , to , and to . It also in 2014 for $2 billion and later that year.

Facebook launched Facebook Zero, a free version of its mobile site accessible by feature phones, in 2010. It has become a in non-Western countries. It expanded those efforts in 2014 with an that offers limited Internet access.

Facebook has based on , including , based on users’ individual information, and advertisements (including ) , as well as a for third-party apps. In 2014, it LiveRail. Though Facebook’s ads can be , they are . Facebook’s advertising strategy was questioned leading up to its public stock offering, as a major advertiser and observers questioned their and for Facebook.

Facebook has also focused its advertising strategy on , by  in . To that end, it , which allows live social content to be searched for and displayed more easily, in 2013.

Facebook and journalism

Facebook has become the , and it has to use their News Feed as a customized news reader. It is the for five major U.S. news sites, according to May 2011 data. By the end of 2013, that the amount of traffic Facebook drove had significantly increased. Some individual news organizations have , however, claiming the traffic it drives isn’t worth the resources it takes to bring it in. The significant traffic driven from Facebook has led it to become for the type of virally aspirational content often called “clickbait.” Facebook to de-emphasize clickbait in August 2014.

Facebook has often been used as an additional method of and a for news organizations’ stories. Some outlets have into their website for major news stories. Other organizations have for several of their individual journalists.

have to , , and of people involved in breaking news stories. According to , about two-thirds of journalists use Facebook in their reporting.

In 2007, Facebook began allowing users to create their own apps, and news organizations have created apps for and . In 2011, news organizations began releasing within Facebook, though two of the original news organizations to use apps — and  — shut their app down and took it off Facebook, respectively, the following year. Facebook has also on a social voting app.

Numerous news organizations have used Facebook Connect to integrate Facebook’s system and login with their sites, in 2008. The following year, The Huffington Post , which used Facebook Connect to let HuffPost readers see what their friends had read and recommended. In March 2011, Facebook extended this functionality through a revamped for news sites to use.

The New York Times has specifically for readers who are referred there by Facebook, and has posted its own ad on Facebook’s front page. Other news organizations have advertisers’ Facebook accounts.

Journalists have debated about involving Facebook, including , , , and in approaching those affected by tragedy. Some have in their participation on Facebook because it is a company whose interests might not always align with the public’s.

In July 2010, Facebook launched its Facebook + Media page, an attempt to help news organizations and other potential partners to use Facebook in their work. In April 2011, the company launched its program, an effort to using the service. It for news organization to analyze conversation on the site in 2013 and , which aggregates newsworthy content shared on the site, in 2014. The company also has a with news organizations.

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Facebook and privacy

Facebook is built on the principle of social information sharing online, which Zuckerberg has like so: The amount of information people share online will double every year. (This principle has come to be called Zuckerberg’s Law.) Zuckerberg has also said he believes Facebook needs to loosen its privacy controls to of increased sharing. In 2011, Facebook launched several developments to its sharing interface that it called “,” which has been criticized as . It has also measuring very granular user data, including cursor movement. Facebook has also been criticized for in without their knowledge.

Facebook has throughout its existence, particularly as its have . Users and other groups have criticized Facebook for giving user information to and , , , , and . In response to persistent complains about , Facebook in May 2010. In 2014, Facebook into third-party apps that limits the amount of information that can be seen within those apps, though the data is still available to Facebook.

Some have or that Facebook be by the U.S. government, and others have to Facebook. (The startup tried to provide this alternative in 2010.) have and of .

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: August 28, 2014.
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The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization that focuses on investigative reporting at state and local levels. The center, based in Bismarck, N.D., was founded in 2009 by the Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative thinktank, and several of its employees have come from positions in conservative publications and political offices,…

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