May 18, 2017

How Facebook skyrocketed after going public 5 years ago

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

When Facebook's went public 5 years ago today — the third-largest U.S. IPO ever — it was largely seen as a platform for teens to share photos and play silly games. Now, it's the fifth-largest company by market capitalization and rivals Google as the biggest online advertising platform. Here's a look at how the company has grown over the past five years:

Reach: Five years ago, Facebook primarily reached young adults in the U.S. Today, Facebook's Daily Active Users (DAUs) feature a cross-generational mix around the world. The number of businesses also using the platform to communicate and market has increased substantially.

Revenue: When Facebook went public, it had just made its first major investment in Instagram for $1 billion. That expense impacted Facebook's ability to make a significant profit that year, earning just $53 million in net income. By the end of 2016, Facebook had pocketed $10.2 billion in net income, becoming not only profitable, but lucrative.

Mobile: At the time of its IPO, Facebook's user base was mostly accessing the platform on desktop, so Facebook was making only 11% (roughly) of its ad revenue on mobile. Today, Facebook is a mobile ad cash cow, with 85% of its ad revenue coming from mobile. It accounts for roughly 20% of all U.S. mobile ad revenue, per eMarketer.

Competitors:

  • Facebook's biggest competitors in 2012: Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr
  • Facebook's biggest competitors in 2017: Google, Snapchat, Amazon

Problems:

  • Facebook's biggest problem 2012: Mobile ad measurement
  • Facebook's biggest problems 2017: Fake news, Facebook Live, data privacy

Milestones: Just prior to its IPO, Facebook struck a deal to acquire Instagram at $1 billion. It's since made a key number of high profile investments to diversify its revenue stream, build out new products and thwart competition, including a $19 billion acquisition of the WhatsApp messaging service. But as it became a major news-sharing platform, it also became embroiled in heated battles over the veracity and bias of its content and some horrific scenes broadcast on its Live feature. Facebook has spent the past several months fighting the backlash, building closer relationships with media organizations and hiring human fact-checkers to keep an eye on its content.

  • Aug. 2011: Launched Messenger
  • Jan. 2012: Launched Timeline
  • Apr. 2012: Acquired Instagram ($1 billion)
  • Feb. 2014: Acquired WhatsApp ($19 billion)
  • Mar. 2014: Acquired Oculus VR ($2 billion)
  • May 2015: Launched Instant Articles for publishers
  • Jan. 2016: Launched Facebook Live
  • May 2016: Trending Topics controversy
  • Oct. 2016: Fake News controversy

Mission/Tools: Facebook told investors in 2012 it's stated goal was "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." The tech giant focused its investments on enhancing the Facebook platform itself, as well as buying other messaging and asset-sharing platforms to grow its reach. Today, Zuckerberg's stated mission is to grow a social infrastructure company that fights worldwide health and infrastructure challenges and brings humanity together through advanced technologies, like drones, satellites, fiber cable, artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality.

Zuck: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a 28-year-old, unmarried college drop-out when the company went public. The tech mogul has since married, had a baby (and has another on the way), and embarked on a nationwide its-not-a-campaign tour, leading many to speculate about his political ambitions.

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