The How Facebook works.


How does Facebook work?

Facebook is a social networking website that, since its inception, has exploded in popularity with people of all ages. On Facebook, people can create a profile, upload pictures, make friends, play games, and do a whole world of other things. But for those who are new to the site, it can seem a bit overwhelming. With profiles and pictures, a public wall, applications, third-party applications, and Facebook mobile, just exactly how does it all work?

Even though it may seem that Facebook has been taking over the world for decades now, Facebook has only been around for 2004. Back then it was created by Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. At the time all three were attending Harvard University and wanted to create a site where people could go to connect with friends, meet new friends, and share photos. It was originally called “” and the site became so widely popular in just its first month that the boys expanded it to include the campuses of Yale, Stamford, and Columbia. By the next year, the site had expanded so much that students from over 800 schools across the United States could join and the site had 5 million users. It was in August of 2005 that the site’s name was changed to “Facebook.”

Signing Up and Making Friends

Today, you don’t have to be a student to join the site and you don’t even have to live in the United States. Facebook is open to anyone over the age of 13, in any country in the world. All someone has to do to become a member of Facebook is open a free account. There are a few stipulations however. One is the age requirement of 13, and the other is that anyone who’s a member of the site and between the ages of 13-18 must be attending school. Every member also must have a valid working email address in order to sign onto the site. Once a person has started to sign up for their account, they will be sent an email for confirmation. Once confirmed, a person then has free access to the site, and can start filling in their profile information, uploading pictures, making friends, and taking advantage of all the other things that Facebook has to offer.

The first thing most people do once they’re signed up on Facebook is to find friends. And Facebook has a few ways that you can do this. The first is to browse through and join a network. These are divided up into four categories: by region (cities or countries); colleges, places of employment, and high schools. After joining a network, it’s then possible to search through it to find people you know. It’s even possible to sort people while you’re browsing by age, race, sex, and other different criteria. Facebook can also search for people using your contact list in your email. Facebook will simply search the names, and then search its database looking for those same names. But Facebook still gives you one more option. If you know the name of the person you’re looking for, you can just type it into the search engine found within Facebook and it will search through its database and pull up a listing of possible results for you. If you’re very specific with the name, it usually only pulls up one or two, depending on how many groups the person is active in, and other information.

Your profile on Facebook is the page that people will be taken to when they want to come find you on Facebook. On your profile page you can fill in various information, such as your relationship status, where you work, and where you go to school. Facebook will then automatically search for others who have the same information on their profile page and allow you to see the people that are on Facebook with this same information. The advantage is that you’ll be able to see at a glance many people who are already on Facebook that you may know, but the disadvantage is that everyone can see you too. There are different privacy settings that you can change but doing so defeats the purpose of social networking and so, this is why it does it automatically.

When you first get your profile page, there will be a few things already in place. These are: an area for you to upload a profile picture (the picture everyone will see when they find your profile); a friends area, which will display all of the people on your friends list; a personal information section; a feed, which will tell you about the latest changes your friends have made to their profile, and will tell them about any of yours; and a wall, which is where your friends can leave notes for you. When you go onto someone else’s profile page, if that person is not yet your friend, you’ll also see an area that will permit you to invite them to be your friend. If they accept your friend request, you will be added to each other’s friends list and be able to access each other’s profile page.

When you log into Facebook, you’ll automatically be taken to your own Home page. This is a page that only you can see, although many of the same updates may appear on your friends’ pages as well. This page is a news feed, and will tell you about any changes your friends have made to their profile pages such as picture changes, or if they advanced in a game. You may also see whether a friend has gotten their horoscope that day, or if they changed their status update. In essence, anything that your friends choose to publish to their profile page, you will see in your news feed, depending on how much news there is that day.

A special type of profile is that of a business, organization, artist, or other person or group who is trying to promote themselves publicly. These profile pages are called “Fan” pages and generally, personal information is not posted on these pages. Instead, information about the company or group will be listed, and you can then choose to “Like” it. This simply means you’ll now have access to anything posted on that profile, such as invitations to events, news, and wall messages.

Facebook is pretty simple up to this point. You log on, make friends, and talk to them. But, in come applications. Facebook applications can seem very intimidating and overwhelming at first, especially if you’re toying with the idea of creating a Facebook application. These applications are what’s used when people are playing games, uploading photos, and doing many more things on the social networking site.

Facebook Applications

The applications on Facebook are what has made it so incredibly popular, and sets it apart from other social networking sites, such as Twitter. On Facebook, there are two different types of applications: first-party and third-party. The first-party applications are those that come with the site, and are available to anyone who becomes a member, and there are a few of them within Facebook. These are the different first-party applications on Facebook:

  • The photos application allows you to upload photos, and the number you can upload is unlimited. It also allows you to view the photos of your friends, as well as do a number of other things such as “tagging” a friend, which essentially puts their name on the photo and makes them aware that the photo is there.
  • The video application on Facebook allows you to do much the same as photos, uploading and viewing any that your friends post. There are certain requirements but members can upload videos in just about any format, and Facebook will convert them into Flash format.
  • The groups application allows people to form groups, inviting friends to events, posting information about a humanitarian cause, or anything else that might be of interest to the public.
  • The events application can be found within other applications and allows people to invite other people to specific events.
  • The Facebook marketplace application is a place where people can go to buy and sell stuff. All sales are made directly between members and Facebook only provides members with a place to do so. They do not get directly involved with any sale.
  • There’s also a posted items application in Facebook. This application allows people to post things from the Web onto their profile page. So for instance, if a member of Facebook comes across a news article on the Web, they can post it on their profile page and all of their friends will be able to see it.
  • The gifts application is another that can be used in Facebook to send friends gifts. Depending on the gift, some may cost money but most don’t.

Just by looking at the applications that automatically come with the site, it’s easy to see what a long way Facebook has come since its inception. New applications are always being made and added to the site, plus there are thousands of third-party applications. Third-party applications are those that are not created by Facebook, and that are created by regular people like you. Many sites offer application programming interfacing (API), which is what allows members to create their own applications. These third-party applications also don’t come automatically with your Facebook profile. You must install them, and you must be careful when doing so. Although most of the third-party applications on Facebook are perfectly safe, if you add too many, your profile page will only become confusing for those who visit it.

Third-party applications do become a bit more complicated. They don’t work the same way that first-party applications do firstly because developers of third-party applications need to have access to certain things and secondly because they don’t automatically appear on a person’s profile page when they run them.

First, developers of third-party applications must have access to a Web server that can store their application; Facebook’s server will not hold them. These applications can also be Web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-based. So a person can have an application on their Facebook mobile that does not appear on their profile page. Another member could have a desktop application that can be accessed that will give a person direct access to their news feed.

Third-party Facebook applications run on a Representational State Transfer (REST) interface which makes the transfer of data quick and efficient. With this interface, applications use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) GET or POST request. The GET request will access the information and the POST request will send that information to be posted on a certain page. This allows applications to pull information from members’ profiles.

Developers also need to communicate with databases, servers and web pages in order to function. The language that third-party Facebook applications need to use is Facebook Query Language (FQL), which is a lot like another language programmers use, Structured Query Language (SQL.) FQL allows developers to see information about their users, which is essentially the main purpose of it. Developers sometimes use this information to create target marketing for specific audiences, or to see how much a person is browsing the Web. While this is certainly something that makes Facebook applications so unique, it’s also one of the main points that Facebook has been criticized for because it can be argued that this violates a person’s privacy.

When developers want to get a bit more advanced, they can use the Facebook Markup Language (FML.) This allows the application to become much more integrated with a person’s profile page and can vastly change the experience of the member by completely changing and personalizing their profile page.

Every application also has a canvas page. Both the developer and the user can see the canvas page, however it works much differently for both of them. The developer can put up anything they want on the canvas page and change it whenever they want. A user however, will only see the canvas page when they click on the icon for that application.

Facebook Mobile

Facebook Mobile is simply another way to use the site, and that’s through a cell phone. On any cell phone that can access Facebook, it can work in three different ways: text messages, mobile uploads, and mobile browsing.

If the cell phone uses text messages to access Facebook mobile, it will rely on Short Message Service (SMS) or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS.) Not all phones are equipped with these but SMS allows users to send and receive text messages. SMS only allows for 160 characters and that’s why MMS was created. This works the same way as SMS but there is no limit on how much a person may type. Text messaging allows people some access to Facebook. When a person sends a text message to Facebook, such as when changing their status update, the message will be sent to a mobile switching center (MSC), and from there it will go to a signal transfer point (STP.) Even from there it still has to go to a short message service center (SMSC), which will then pass on the text message to Facebook and post it. If Facebook needs to send a text message to a phone, such as when they send a notification, the process is reversed.

Mobile uploads work very much like text messages but they use MMS. This allows the user to do much more, such as send video and pictures. Not all cell phones allow for MMS and if they don’t, they will simply send a text message to the cell phone, telling the person to check the website to see what the message is they just received.

Mobile web browsing requires the cell phone to have a 3G or Wi-Fi connection in order to access the site. If a person does have these capabilities on their phone, they will be able to access the site just as they would from their personal computer, by going through a web browser. They will then be able to do anything on their profile page that they would be able to from their home computer.

Facebook certainly has come a long way since it was first created in 2004, and its popularity only continues to grow. Facebook claims that it has 57 million active members, and “active members” only refers to those people who have a profile and have logged in within the past 30 days. And since 2007, it’s also said that Facebook receives 250,000 new registrations every day. Of those Facebook members, most of them come from the United States, with Canada bringing in a close second. The United Kingdom has the third most amount of members on the site. It’s said that registrations on Facebook double every six months.

Facebook is the second largest social networking site, but it’s number one in image sharing. Because there are so many members, and so many more joining every day, and the fact that members can upload as many photos as they want, it’s easy to see why Facebook is ranked so high as an image sharing site. On average, there are about 14 million images uploaded to Facebook every day.

The applications, especially third-party applications, are constantly growing as well. There have been more than 7,000 third-party applications integrated into Facebook ever since the site started to allow them in 2007. Each day sees about 100 more applications on the site, and a Facebook poll showed that over eighty percent of their users have used at least one third-party application.

So, with over 350 employees, rooms and rooms of servers, and so many people using it, how does Facebook stay afloat financially? If you’ve ever been on Facebook, you know that the site does have some advertising on the site and that does help create revenue. However, most of the revenue made by Facebook comes from private investors, from whom Facebook has received more than $40 million dollars since it was created.



 How Facebook works.