On Feb. 4, 2004, a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg launched a little website known as thefacebook.com. Today, Zuckerberg is easily one of the most recognizable names in the world, and what started as a small Harvard-specific site has grown into an international social network that supports more than 1 billion users.

I’ve grown up with technology; I remember trying to convince my parents to sign up for CompuServe with our little 300-baud modem back in the 1980s. Once my mom realized that connecting to the CompuServe network would require a long-distance phone call, the idea was quickly nixed. Even though I’ve been around Internet technology for decades, I can honestly say that the growth of thefacebook.com and ultimately Facebook.com is surprising and unprecedented.

In August 2005, Zuckerberg dropped the word ‘the’ from the site and the official Facebook.com site was born. If you’ve watched the popular movie "Social Network," then you may remember the scene where this idea came about. Justin Timberlake was playing the part of Napster founder Sean Parker and almost as an afterthought, Timberlake’s character told Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) to “drop the the.” Obviously I don’t know how it played out in real life, but I can honestly say that thefacebook.com sounds far less appealing than Facebook.com.

Over the last nine years, Facebook has gone through many changes including a few controversial updates, most notably the addition of Facebook timeline in early 2012. Despite the changes that cause some users to metaphorically pull their hair out in frustration, the site has managed to amass 1.06 billion users.

SocialBakers is a Facebook marketing developer that keeps up-to-date user statistics. Here are a few examples of the Facebook data that the company makes available to the public:

Largest countries on Facebook:

  1. United States – 164,958,520 users
  2. Brazil – 65,657,800
  3. India – 61,699,860
  4. Indonesia – 48,807,560
  5. Mexico – 39,802,080
Fastest-growing Facebook countries from the last week:
  1. Portugal – 2,180 new users
  2. Denmark – 720
  3. Gambia – 260
  4. Comoros – 200
  5. Saint Kitts and Nevis – 60
I pride myself on having an expansive knowledge of world geography but I have to admit that I had no clue where Comoros is. I’ve heard of the country but I wouldn’t be able to pick it out on a map, so of course I had to look it up. Comoros is a developing island nation off the eastern coast of southern Africa.

I learn something new every day that I log on to Facebook, and it looks like I learned something new just researching Facebook for this story. Although Facebook has had its detractors over the years, it is an undeniable force in social media and on the Internet. Nowhere else can more than 1 billion users from around the world connect with one another.

Thefacebook.com launched 9 years ago today
The precursor to what would become the most popular social network in the world launched on Feb. 4, 2004.