Social networking websites allow individuals, businesses and other organizations to interact with one another and build relationships and communities online. When companies join these social channels, consumers can interact with them directly. That interaction can be more personal to users than traditional methods of outbound marketing and advertising. Social networking sites act as word of mouth or more precisely, e-word of mouth. The Internet's ability to reach billions across the globe has given online word of mouth a powerful voice and far reach. The ability to rapidly change buying patterns and product or service acquisition and activity to a growing number of consumers is defined as an influence network. Social networking sites and blogs allow followers to "retweet" or "repost" comments made by others about a product being promoted, which occurs quite frequently on some social media sites. By repeating the message, the user's connections are able to see the message, therefore reaching more people. Because the information about the product is being put out there and is getting repeated, more traffic is brought to the product/company.
Users outside of the US and Canada contract with Facebook's Irish subsidiary "Facebook Ireland Limited". This allows Facebook to avoid US taxes for all users in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Facebook is making use of the Double Irish arrangement which allows it to pay just about 2–3% corporation tax on all international revenue. In 2010, Facebook opened its fourth office, in Hyderabad and the first in Asia.
Facebook's initial public offering came on May 17, 2012, at a share price of US$38. The company was valued at $104 billion, the largest valuation to that date. The IPO raised $16 billion, the third-largest in U.S. history, after Visa Inc. in 2008 and AT&T Wireless in 2000. Based on its 2012 income of $5 billion, Facebook joined the Fortune 500 list for the first time in May 2013, ranked 462. The shares set a first day record for trading volume of an IPO (460 million shares). The IPO was controversial given the immediate price declines that followed. and was the subject of lawsuits, while SEC and FINRA both launched investigations.
In many countries the social networking sites and mobile apps have been blocked temporarily or permanently, including China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. In May 2018, the government of Papua New Guinea announced that it would ban Facebook for a month while it considered the impact of the website on the country, though no ban has since occurred.
On January 17, 2017, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg planned to open Station F, a startup incubator campus in Paris, France. On a six-month cycle, Facebook committed to work with ten to 15 data-driven startups there. On April 18, Facebook announced the beta launch of Facebook Spaces at its annual F8 developer conference. Facebook Spaces is a virtual reality version of Facebook for Oculus VR goggles. In a virtual and shared space, users can access a curated selection of 360-degree photos and videos using their avatar, with the support of the controller. Users can access their own photos and videos, along with media shared on their newsfeed. In September, Facebook announced it would spend up to US$1 billion on original shows for its Facebook Watch platform. On October 16, it acquired the anonymous compliment app tbh, announcing its intention to leave the app independent.
The new social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, connected hundreds of millions of people. By 2008, politicians and interest groups were experimenting with systematic use of social media to spread their message. By the 2016 election, political advertising to specific groups had become normalized. Facebook offered the most sophisticated targeting and analytics platform. ProPublica noted that their system enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of "Jew hater," "How to burn jews," or, "History of 'why Jews ruin the world".
The Photos application allows users to upload albums and photos. Each album can contain 200 photos. Privacy settings apply to individual albums. Users can "tag", or label, friends in a photo. The friend receives a notification about the tag with a link to the photo. This photo tagging feature was developed by Aaron Sittig, now a Design Strategy Lead at Facebook, and former Facebook engineer Scott Marlette back in 2006 and was only granted a patent in 2011.