When Facebook was just starting out | #socialmedia

CBC News has begun a month-long project to turn off commenting on its Facebook pages, citing increasing “toxicity” in the conversation on social media. 

In 2006, Facebook and other social media were just getting started. 

Facebook in particular was a burgeoning phenomenon that, according to the Globe and Mail, 3.1 million Canadians had adopted by July 2007. And the number of Canadian adopters was growing by four per cent monthly.

Peter Mansbridge, host of CBC’s The National and Mansbridge One on One, spoke to technology journalist Andy Walker in October that year to try to understand what Facebook was for.

‘Why don’t you just phone me?’

Peter Mansbridge talks to technology journalist Andy Walker about Facebook in 2007. 2:37

“If I look at Facebook, and you and I are friends … you might have updated your profile to say, ‘I am going to a party this weekend.’ That information is shared between us, ” said Walker.

“Why don’t you just phone me?” asked Mansbridge.

Walker said that he might have “dozens and dozens” of friends, and that Facebook could give him a “snapshot” of what his social network was up to — on a single page.   

“You really think this isn’t a passing fad,” said Mansbridge.

“It’s enormous,” said Walker. “What Facebook has capitalized on here is our need to be connected with each other … we provide information to each other about each other.”

Privileged information

Ann Cavoukian cautions social media users to be careful of the information they post online when the technologies are emerging in 2006. 2:13

For Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s privacy commissioner, the information users posted meant they had reasons to be wary of social media right from the start.

“When you post information online … that information will be online forever,” she told reporter Mike Wise on Oct. 12, 2006. “You can’t control the number of people that have shared this information.”

Wise said Cavoukian’s goal was to have “parents and students” take their online privacy more seriously, and her “latest are of concern” was social networking sites — “places like like MySpace.”

Ontario privacy commission Ann Cavoukian warned in 2006 that any information a person posted online could stay there ‘forever.’ (CBC News at Six Toronto/CBC Archives)

“Do not put your home address and contact information,” Cavoukian said. Other information not to post, she said, included things like a phone number or class schedule.  

Wise noted that Facebook, which “restricted” access, was “popular with university students” as the camera showed the site’s login page.

“But we can’t log in to show you because we’re not students.” 

Implications for advertising

A Calgary clothing store owner says it’s been worthwhile to get the word about her store by showing off her wares with a new method. 1:53

Jumping ahead to 2007, Walker said Facebook leveraged the information that users provided about each other.

“Then they know a lot about us as well,” he said. “And that’s important from an advertising perspective.”

“And that’s why it becomes worth $15 billion,” said Mansbridge.

According to the Globe and Mail, Facebook had been valued at $15 billion that month, when Microsoft had acquired a two per cent stake for $240 million.

Two months later, advertising on Facebook was succeeding for a Calgary clothing store owner.

‘Potential shopping network’

According to reporter Colleen Underwood, the platform was becoming “a potential shopping network.”

“We’ve had probably half a dozen people a day coming in, saying that they saw us on Facebook,” said Meghan Ulmer, owner of a clothing store called Kure.

She said she had been careful about the size and placement of her ad.

“It’s not particularly invasive,” she said. “It has the potential to be if [Facebook lets] too much advertising on there.”

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