Jun 12, 2011

The 'new' Largest Country!

"Whaaaaaaaat?", I exclaimed in amazement as if Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement.  My brother told me the name of a country that has that just swift past through everyone and reached the TOP position.

Which is the world's most populated country? Undoubtedly China. India, though less than half the geo size of China and not even one-fourth of the U.S' geo, still managed to stay a bit behind the bejing brothers. Someone started very late: as late as 2004 and in just around 6 years, knocked these  two out and reached  the top. The Father of this new country is none other than America's youngest billionaire and the TIME Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg. I am talking about Facebook here, the world's most visited website, after Google.com 
If Facebook is a country, it would be the 3rd largest, behind only China and India. 
The sentence above, I wrote 8 months back! Facebook has even surpassed China's population. If Facebook's users are a country, it would be the largest in the world! One Tenth of entire humanity owns a facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. Last month, the site accounted for 2 out of every 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 130,000 people a day.

It's amazing,  how Zuckerberg made this happen in less than just 7 years. Though I first decided to write this blog entry, to announce the largest-country thing, I later made up  my mind to contemplate on the possible answers to one not-so-new-question: Why Facebook succeeded?

So, Facebook succeeded because of?

Ans 1:  Its Founder. 

This man, Mark Zuckerberg, a.k.a Zuck featured in the TIME magazine's list of TOP 10 College Drop-outs, a list that included renowned names like Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple). Although stories revealed that Zuck stole this idea of a social networking platform from his Harvard seniors, I feel that Facebook wouldn't 've been  this successful had it been developed by someone else, who worked for 'just' money. Like it was screen-played on The Social Network movie, Zuck always wanted to build something COOL. His intent was never to make money. Everytime his so-called co-founder made monetisation attempts, Zuck discouraged him. He let his imagination grow and went on to add everything he felt would add to the cool-quotient. There were so many people who approached Zuck with billions of dollars to acquire FB but he turned down all of them.

Terry Semel, the former CEO of Yahoo! who reportedly offered Zuckerberg that sum, told the New Yorker that he'd never met a person who would turn down a $1 billion offer. "He [Zuckerberg] said, 'It's not about the price. This is my baby, and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it.'" Semel said, recalling his conversation with Zuckerberg in 2006, "I couldn't believe it."

That kind of a belief, intent and determination is what that is required to make something succeed to this extent.

Ans 2:  Its Technology. 

Think about this: You update your facebook status, and you get the message, "Some problem occurred while updating your status. Try again after some time". Twitter show that often but never in your facebooking history would you encounter such a message, unless you borrowed your internet modem from Vasco da gama or availed the internet connection during World War II. 

I have seen facebook loading like a whisker even in slower connections where even Google.com will delay to load. Such is the kind of hardware and sofware systems that has been developed and administered by facebook. It is an invincible revolution toward technology. It's probably the world's most robust system ever built by mankind. The servers process updates to Facebook users' pages as quickly as possible, so that a comment or post is live within seconds. Multiply that across 850 million (and counting) users and the power of the data center becomes awesome indeed. Scaling up of the servers is always a challenge at facebook as the number of users exponentially increase at an extreme rate. Think about code check-ins. Have your ever noticed a facebook downtime for site maintenance? Never. The are thousands and thousands of code that gets checked-in LIVE, in a sophisticated way. They call it Facebook Push. The way facebook store, retrieve,  and  present information is unbelievably amazing. Think about the dynamic privacy options: For every single user, it has to maintain data sets to show What and What Not. Also think how seamless has the Social plugins integrated various websites? It will require a dedicated blog to write about the Facebook Engineering team's brilliance. Your status message and party pictures are stored in one of the boxes shown below. Check out more cool images here.

Facebook data center
Ans 3:  Its Employees. 

Zuck can be like M.S.Dhoni. Both has the right mix of talent and overwhelming luck. When you are leading a big team, you need productivity from your colleagues. Neither does Dhoni can bat for full 50 overs nor does Zuck can code for 24 hours. You just need to keep the people around you excited about what they do.  When Dhoni was in there, he kept the team's morale in great spirit. The intent for the boys to perform was always there. Zuck had a very different way of handling his employees. He created an environment where people are at their lively best, from where real creativity can originate from. The typical corporate hierarchy and infrastructure is no where to be found in Facebook offices!

The space is open plan: no cubicles, no offices, no walls, just a rolling tundra of office furniture. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, who used to be Lawrence Summers' chief of staff at the Treasury Department, doesn't have an office. Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO and co-founder and presiding visionary, doesn't have an office. 
Yes, it's an office!
This work culture combined with fat pay checks and real food for challenge encouraged every aspiring technologist to join Facebook. A day was there in which joining Microsoft or Google seemed to be the biggest achievement. These aren't happening any more. Many Googlers are rapidly filling facebook positions of late!

There were some rumors that a Google employee was offered 3.5 Million, not to join Facebook. Lars Rasmussen, the founder of the highly successful Google Maps project, left Google and joined Facebook after Zuck sent him a job offer with a 'cool' description: "Come hang out with us for a while, and we'll see what happens". Lars pointed out that the energy out there was just tremendous. That's what you want to succeed in your business: "Empowered Employees". Here is some more cool images.

Ans 4:  Its Idea.

"Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected", states the site's home page. Facebook did not create any content on it's own like news websites do. It provided a platform where it's users can share all the content out there in the world wide web. It makes use of user's creativity and generates traffic. Think about that amazing dance video link you shared on FB some time back. 1 million video views would account to 1 million facebook page views. There will be tens of thousands of such videos  out there, being shared over and over. We read more news on Facebook than we do by opening news websites or watching televison. 

While all that would be just trivial, what matters the most is what you update about your own life. You are given a medium to record almost every event of your life, with the people in your life. Be it the day you gradauted or got a job, and proudly posted it on your facebook wall, or be it the picnic pictures you recently clicked, or the video you shot, or that private group you created for your own gang. Pictures, Videos, Groups, Blogs (Notes), and what else you want? 
"Facebook is a good friend. He is there waiting for you to pour out your feelings when you are lonely, Celebrate when you're happy and simply an uncomplaining spectator when you want to shoutout all the phases of your life. I don't care if the creator of FB is an atheist or a saint, this does not mean members are also the same. This is simply amazing how you can communicate and reach out to far flung places. Thanks FB!", writes Claudette Kim.

So, Where is the money?
From where comes the money to build and maintain all this? Have you ever paid a penny for using your facebook account? Do you know how many billions of dollars it would require, to maintain an user base facebook has? That is the master idea I am talking about. Initially, Zuck hated the way of keeping Ads. But later, he incorporated them in such a way that user's experience is hardly hampered. The best part is the intelligent Audience Targeting of these Ads. Without your knowledge, by analyzing your activities on facebook, the system generates your likes and dislikes and shows up ads accordingly. Changing your relationship status to ENGAGED would prompt the system to show wedding arrangements related Ads on your profile! God knows if changing to married would show up Honeymoon packages :P

Because of this reason, Facebook has high CTR than any other internet advertising business. By the way, CTR means, Click Through Rate, an internet marketing term which is a measure of the number of times the ad link has been viewed.

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