Internet giant that was born in a Harvard dorm
IN the space of just eight years Facebook has undergone a meteoric and unprecedented rise that has transformed the once unknown social networking site into one of the internet's greatest-ever success stories.
But the road that led the US company to its position as a multi-billion dollar global powerhouse has been far from smooth.
Now with nearly 900 million monthly worldwide users, the social media giant rose from humble beginnings after being launched from psychology student Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard dorm room in February 2004.
The keen computer programmer had already developed a number of networking websites for fellow students, including Coursematch, which allowed users to view people taking their degree, and Facemash, a website that asked users to judge students' attractiveness.
But it was Thefacebook.com - as it was originally called - that proved the instant hit, allowing Harvard undergraduates to create basic online profiles and display personal information and photos.
Within a month, over half of the student population had an account and soon after the social network started its expansion to other colleges and universities across America.
By the end of 2004 young technology mogul Zuckerberg and the early Facebook founders decided to move their headquarters to the sunny climes of California and began developing the site after catching the eye of a number of wealthy investors.
Facebook.com was purchased in August 2005 and the following month US high schools were allowed to sign up.
The buzz around the revolutionary website has started to reverberate across the globe and its registration limits were scrapped in September 2006, but the lengthy legal battles which have marred its relatively short life span were already well under way.
Harvard student Cameron Winklevoss, his twin brother Tyler and friend Divya Narenya, claimed Zuckerberg had taken the idea for Facebook when he was working for them as a programmer for their university social-networking site ConnectU.
The trio filed a law suit in September 2004 and following nearly four years of legal wrangling Facebook finally settled for a purported $65 million dollars (€51million) in 2008.
By this time the company's estimated value had soared into the billions following investment from Microsoft and other high-profile capitalists and it had set up an international base in Dublin.
In June 2009 the company overtook Myspace as the leading online social network in the US, but Facebook is still dogged by criticism over privacy issues.
It later went on to admit it had violated users' privacy by getting people to share more information than they agreed to before settling in court and making its policy more clear.
The meteoric rise of the site was immortalised onscreen in the 2010 release of The Social Network which documented the legal battle with the Winklevoss twins, who sought more money after the 2008 settlement before finally ending their battle in 2011.
The film also focused on Zuckerberg's relationship with co-founder Eduardo Saverin who was allegedly forced out of the firm before taking legal action against Facebook.
The social media giant is now valued at more than $100 billion (€79 billion) and stands to reap up to $18.4 billion (€14.5 billion) from the sale of hundreds of millions of shares