With the successful launch of Facebook Connect in November—their own version of data portability for web users—the company has taken a significant step toward their not-so-secret goal of becoming the social operating system for the entire interwebs. Facebook swelled to 150 million users by the end of 2008, finally besting rival MySpace and making the company officially too big to fail. In fact, they've exceeded the capacity offered by their own distributed network of offices in downtown Palo Alto; the company will be relocating most employees a few miles away to a more campus-like setting in 2009. Not bad for a site which a few short years ago as cobbled together in sublet flophouses, and whose young CEO tooled around Palo Alto in a Craigslist car that didn't even need a key.
When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, he took his nascent social network out to Silicon Valley, settling in Palo Alto, a stone's throw from the Stanford campus. For a while, Facebook operated out of sublet apartments before moving to a grown-up office on University and High. Now the company's physical footprint includes 10 buildings—plus unofficial Facebooker gathering spots at bars and eateries all across town.
Here, a selection of Facebook events of 2008—and where the key action took place.
(now Bistro d'Asie)
445 Emerson Street
Senior staff have fortified themselves here with stiff drinks and small snacks before heading into what they call "the Vault"—their nightly strategy chat with CEO Zuckerberg.
b. Corner of University
Avenue and High Street
Buses leave from here to take Facebook staffers to official San Francisco—based gatherings, like their Prom (a tie-in promotion with Sony in May) and the F8 Developers Conference (in July).
c. Downtown Palo Alto Creamery
566 Emerson Street
The favorite breakfast haunt for the closest thing Facebook has to a C-suite crowd. Former COO Owen van Natta gave up his stool, metaphorically, last March to successor Sheryl Sandberg, formerly Google's vice president of global online sales and operations.
d. 164 Hamilton Street
When Google's former communications chief, Elliot Shrage, followed COO Sheryl Sandberg to Facebook, this became home to his Press Open Door initiative. It is where he held regular meetings last fall with reporters to explain Facebook's radical site redesign—which sent application developers (and some users) into fits of rage. They got over it: More than 52,000 applications are available on Facebook, with some 140 added every day.
644 Emerson Street
During the long, hot summer of making the new product Facebook Connect come alive, this yogurt eatery—organic, natch!—was the cool coders' hangout of choice. Facebook Connect lets members log on to other sites using their Facebook profile; Digg, Joost, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Vimeo are among the thousand sites already on board.
f. The New Facebook
1601 California Avenue
Looking toward a more consolidated "campus life," Facebook is planning to move a substantial portion of its operations in the first quarter of 2009 to an 8.5-acre, 152,000-square-foot site at Stanford Research Park.
g. Coupa Café
538 Ramona Street
The organic coffee, Mexican hot chocolate, and free Wi-Fi sustained young Facebookers in the early days. Now it's elbow-room-only for those seeking a glimpse of café regular Marc Andreessen, who pondered his arrival on the Facebook board in June over many a cuppa.
h. El Camino Park
401 Mitchell Lane
To work off the stress of adding new features (chat is here!) and the end of four years of legal wrangling with ConnectU over source code (they settled!), Facebook held its third Annual Game Day at the park in May. A cacophony of relay-racing madness, the event featured nearly 400 players in 10 teams with names such as Blue Steel, Redrum, and Purple Reign.
i. Old Pro
541 Ramona Street
When the Facebook product teams aren't busy pushing out major site upgrades—which they do every Tuesday night—they come to this watering hole to watch sports; play Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii; and ride "Bull Buckner," the mechanical bull. No, we're not kidding.
j. Facebook Café
116 University Avenue
Ecstatic staff gathered here for a spontaneous toga party in August, to celebrate Facebook's 100-millionth user. The network has since swelled to 150 million souls in 180 countries.