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Facebook is 10. Every publisher on the internet is covering it because it’s important to all of us, even those that have drifted away from the platform recognise its astounding reach. 

At 1.2bn users (more than the global population of 1850) its audience dwarfs that of other social networks and its recent financial results bear that out with $2.59bn in revenue.

I wanted to look quickly at Facebook’s history but from a different angle than other blogs. Wordwise, I’m struck by how social media has enabled a seemingly constant and varied arpeggio of coinage.

The word of the year and new additions to the OED are spread faster than they ever were, via networks like Facebook and Twitter. 

So, I’m looking at 10 words that have been redefined by Facebook over 10 years. And to add some relevant content, I’ll include some trivia, too.

Like

Verb and noun, both are words now shadowed by Facebook. The most liked retailers on Facebook to date are Starbucks and Walmart with 36m and 34m Likes/fans respectively. Walmart uses the Like facility to sign up customers for rollback alerts on various products.

The Like and Share buttons are viewed over 22bn times daily across more than 7.5m websites.

Profile

Above is a Facebook profile in 2005. By the way, Facebook guy in the top left is actually Al Pacino.

Though we’re familiar with profiles on many social networks now, Facebook was the pioneer. 

Ok, there was MySpace, but generally you’d ask someone to check out your MySpace page, not your ‘profile’.

News

As in News Feed. As Facebook and later Twitter started to change how people found out about news items on the web, so did the definition of ‘news’ change.

News was suddenly what our friends were up to and what they were sharing.

Facebook coined the term ‘News Feed’ in 2006 but it was continually tinkered with. In 2011 options were added to allow filtering of who would appear in it, everyone or just recent interactions.

This year the feed was changed again, making organic reach harder to gain for brands.

Privacy

Ok, the web as a whole has redefined privacy , but Facebook has played a big part.

First there were many backlashes against Facebook when users felt the network was less than clear about who it would share photos with. New privacy settings in 2010 helped to clear this up, but the confusion is evident when you look at the editorial coverage at the time

More recently, Facebook was one of the internet giants affected by Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. Only yesterday, it released data about National Security requests over the past year.

Facebook

Facebook itself is obviously now a proper noun, but also a verb, to describing browsing the site (that’s fallen out of usage a little over the past few years) or more often connecting with someone (“I’ll Facebook you!”). 

Heck, the word Facebook has been the most searched for on search engines for the past three years. 

Follow

Or following. It’s no longer sinister to literally and not figuratively follow your friends (in the Facebook sense).

Paper

Will this be the next word we think we knew? Check out Matt Owen’s post on the new Facebook publishing app called Paper, which will change how we access new content.

 

Post

Post is now more of an online, non-physical verb and noun than anything in the ‘real’ world. It’s not specific to Facebook, indeed the network likes ‘update’ but ‘post’ is also in common use.

More than 250bn photos have been posted on Facebook, with over 350m now posted daily.

Friend

Around 150bn friend connections have been made on Facebook. In the real world, the average number of social connections one person can handle is known as the Dunbar’s Number and is about 150.

This means, and I’m aware this maths isn’t exactly sound, friend connections in the real world could number 7bn multiplied by 150 (and then halved, as the connection is two way), which amounts to 525bn.

It’s fairly astounding to think that Facebook friend connections could be 30% the number of real-life connections after only 10 years of the platform.

Edgerank

Not so much a redefined word but two conflated. Edgerank is the algorithm that regulates sharing within Facebook. If you don’t know about it, check out Kelvin Newman’s helpful post

Ben Davis

Published 4 February, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (7)

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David Rounick

This article points to the fascinating way that words seem to resurface after they are brought to our attention and the meanings completely change due to pop culture. A few years ago the word "like" meant nothing more than that, but now it holds a whole different meaning!

over 2 years ago

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Joelle O'Reilly-Hyland

That is the evolution of Facebook. It was just a school project then became the biggest company in the whole world.

over 2 years ago

Ian Crawford

Ian Crawford, Marketing Manager at Holiday Hypermarket (part of TUI UK Ltd)Enterprise

Paragraph five, I think you mean redefined by Facebook, "So, I’m looking at 10 words that have been redefined by Twitter over 10 years."

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Ian

Shows you where my affinity lies :)

Now corrected. Thanks for pointing out.

over 2 years ago

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TWDG Ltd

Will FaceBook be around in another 10 years ? If so, I wonder how they will evolve and move with the ever changing advertising industry, arguably they have helped to shape the industry over the last 10 years. Totally changing the world of marketing becoming one of the major players for Social Media Marketing.

over 2 years ago

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Matt Lovell, Group Head of Customer Insight & Analytics at Thomas Cook AirlinesEnterprise

An interesting one on the friends front but surely that's not that realistic. Afterall, the idea of the dunbars number is to do with stable relationships suggesting a reasonably level of interaction and involvement with each individual.

With Facebook friends, firstly the majority of people I know already have in excess of 150 which suggests that they are either pushing their cognitive capabilities to the max or don't actually have that strong a relationship with those people and secondly, a lot of people 'friend' (there we are using a word we never knew was a verb until Facebook) other Facebook members despite having little if any contact with them in the outside world.

Really interesting though given the take on Facebook's effects on the world over the past 10 years!

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Matt

Yeah, just thought I'd have a bash at the numbers. I think the orders of magnitude might be correct. Beyond that I don't know :)

over 2 years ago

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