This is a case study for the hypothesis: Utility vs Community - How to kick start a new startup. → Facebook at first glance looks like a network of people but it has deeper utility. → Facebook started as a utility disguised as a community. → We will explore all the utility + community aspects of facebook and how "network effects" is engaged.


Version 0.0.1 is the very first version of any product where the product hasn't even completely taken shape.

Version 0.0.1 of facebook was facemash.com

facemash.com - precursor to thefacebook.com

facemash displayed faces of people and infamously compared women and asked people to choose who was hotter or better looking.

It is clear that there was a game feel to this website even though it is just collecting data from it's users. The users loved it.

To put in crude terms, facemash was a directory of people's photos that you could rate


Not much other than feeding people's ego and making some people feel bad and some people good about themselves.

Humans have a strong sexual desire. Facemash works for the same reason that young men visit soft porn websites. Young boys like to see pictures of pretty women.

Young men are often slaves to their sexual desires and are always searching for something to stimulate that sexual energy.

That's the utility. It's a tool for stimulating sexual desires of young men.

This is why porn sites work. No need for a community for a porn site. It is purely a utility for stimulating sexual desires.


Original facebook site in 2004

Facebook on day 1, was an online directory that connects people.


Thefacebook was a directory that was useful just like any other directory.

Yellow pages has people's contact information in it. It's not a community or a social network.

It's a utility.

When you are in university, most people tend to isolate in smaller chunks that don't interact with each other. thefacebook was a perfect tool for people of one group wanting to know more about people from other groups. Specially to know more about a person of the opposite gender.

Even today, I suspect the number 1 reason for a young man to visit facebook again would be to know more about this girl he met.


People came on thefacebook for a common purpose and facebook started giving them ways to openly communicate and build an identity online so that others could know if your identities and beliefs matched.

2007 - Facebook transitions from a directory to a "social utility"

Facebook started expanding it's "social utility" aspect and allowing it's audience to openly communicate with each other via multiple tools viz, messages, mini feed, photos, events and groups

There was still a large set of audience that was not engaging in the community and to capture them, facebook kept building small games and utilities (remember those "which friends character are you?" games)

Facebook's genius is iteratively building utilities and slowing moving the newly acquired audience into communicating and re-enforcing the network.