Five Years Of Facebook

Scott Simon speaks with NPR's Social Media Strategist Andy Carvin about Facebook's fifth anniversary, and how social networking has changed how we use the Internet.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Speaking of Facebook, it celebrated its fifth anniversary this week. According to the company, more than 150 million people around the world are friending, poking, tagging each other. They're individuals, businesses, even politicians. With us here to talk about the way Facebook has changed the way we communicate is NPR senior strategist for social media, Andy Carvin. Andy, thanks so much for being with us.

ANDY CARVIN: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: So, how did Facebook get bigger than MySpace?

CARVIN: It slogged its way to the top, frankly. It took them a while, but the fact that they were designed specifically to get university students linked up with each other, they literally went from university to university getting the entire campus, practically, connected. And then finally, once they had a critical mass of a real hardcore usership, they then opened it up to everyone in 2006.

And up until that point, MySpace was really at the top of the game. But then once regular folks who weren't necessarily in college started using it and people around the world started flocking to it as well, the critical mass just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

SIMON: How do you think it changed the way people use the Internet?

CARVIN: What's interesting is that Facebook was by no means the first social network to come around. People had been forming communities on the Internet for a long time. But its mission was very straightforward. It was created to be a place where you could interact with your friends and be creative with them in all sorts of different ways. So, it wasn't there for you to talk about sports. It wasn't there to sell you books. It was there for you to be closer with your friends.

SIMON: Now, you said it wasn't, for example, invented or devised to serve a commercial purpose like selling books. But if you write a book these days, you're told you need to get on Facebook.

CARVIN: If you do practically anything in the public sphere, you now need some kind of presence on Facebook. It's because there are so many people there, tens of millions of people in the U.S., 150 million worldwide. It's expected of you to go into that community because it is such a large community. You ignore Facebook at your own peril.

SIMON: Are people already talking about something beyond Facebook?

CARVIN: Well, Facebook definitely isn't the only game in town. There are other tools that are quickly beginning to grow. Twitter, for example, which is a group messaging tool that makes it easy for you to send messages to people via text messaging and instant messaging and over the Web. It's a fraction of the size of Facebook, probably in the range of 2 to 5 million people, but yet it's growing at an amazing rate, and a lot of people are across many different demographic groups are heading towards it.

SIMON: Are you on Facebook?

CARVIN: Oh, yes.

SIMON: Yeah, so am I.

CARVIN: We're friends, actually.

SIMON: I - come to think of it, right.

CARVIN: We are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: We did friend each other, didn't we?

CARVIN: We did friend each other, so...

SIMON: I would have rejected that one at my peril. Well, Andy, my friend, thanks very much for being with us.

CARVIN: Thanks again, Scott.

SIMON: Andy Carvin, NPR senior strategist for social media.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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