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12 Facebook flops to commemorate its 12th birthday

Kristin Burnham | Feb. 5, 2016
You can’t get it right all the time, and no one knows that better than the king of social media. Here are 12 examples of famous Facebook fails.

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The social network, which turns 12 years old this week, has seen its fair share of successes: Messaging app WhatsApp, which it acquired in 2014 for $19 billion, recently hit the 1 billion users threshold, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. And Messenger, which it famously uncoupled from its flagship, reached 800 million users

But not all of Facebook’s business decisions and product launches have been hits – and it’s never shied away from failure. Facebook’s at times questionable ethics led the social network to lawsuits, products and features fizzled and big bets fell flat. Here’s a look at Facebook’s most memorable missteps. 

1. Facebook Beacon 

In 2007, the social network launched the first iteration of an ad platform, called Facebook Beacon. Beacon tracked users’ activities on participating external websites, used the data to target ads and published users’ activity on the sites to their news feeds without their consent. Facebook opted all users into this program, and did not provide any way to opt out. 

Beacon immediately drew the ire of privacy advocates, which resulted in a class action lawsuit. Facebook ultimately terminated the Beacon program and created a $9.5 million fund for privacy and security, none of which was repaid to users. 

2. Facebook Gifts 

Facebook Gifts was the social network’s first attempt at an online store: Users could pay to send icons to friends — anything from an image of a birthday cake to a slice of pizza – which would be displayed on users’ profiles.

Three years later, the social network announced it would close its gift shop, saying it planned to “focus more on improving and enhancing products and features that people use every day, such as photos, news feed, inbox, games, comments, the like button and the wall.” 

3. Facebook Lite 

For users who didn’t want all of Facebook’s bells and whistles, the social network launched a slimmed-down site called Facebook Lite in 2009. People could post on others’ timelines, send and accept friend requests and update their status – but just eight months after announcing it, the social network shut it down. 

“Thanks to everyone who tried out Facebook Lite,” the company said in a status update on the site. “We are no longer supporting it, but learned a lot from the test of a slimmed-down site.” 

4. Facebook email addresses 

Many thought that the launch of Facebook’s @facebook.comemail address in 2010 signaled the end of Gmail. Facebook email addresses rolled out as part of the social network’s “social inbox” project — an effort to make Facebook into your communications platform of choice, from text and chat messages to email. 


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