Facebook - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More

Matthew Guay
Reviewed by Matthew Guay
Last updated October 12, 2016

It started out as a college hack, an online version of the yearbooks with their photos and profiles of students. That's all Facebook was—an online profile where you could add your name, picture, and other info about yourself, as well as post what you were currently doing. It was your little, simple corner of the internet—and for the first two years it was online, you could only use Facebook if you attended a universities or worked for a company where it'd been rolled out.

2006 brought the two changes that made Facebook the social network we know today: the News Feed, and open enrollment. The latter meant anyone could sign up for a Facebook account—and today, over 1.7 billion people (or nearly 25% of the world's population) use Facebook each month. And the former is what gets us to check Facebook every day. The News Feed—which you see by default when you open Facebook—shows those update posts from each of your friends about what they're doing. It's not just text, either: Facebook today includes photo albums, news updates, and videos—include live streams of current events. The news feed is always updating, showing you the posts Facebook thinks you'll find most interesting.

To make Facebook your own social network, you'll find people you know and add them as Friends, or find brands and other pages you like and follow them. You can then Like their updates, pictures, and other media, using six emoji options to show your feelings. Or, you can comment on the post and mention friends' names to notify them about what you said.

You can then post your own content to share with friends, choosing to share it with everyone you're friends with, post it publicly, or share it with a smaller group. Groups let you create sub-networks, sharing work-related ideas with your colleagues and personal photos with your family and closer friends. Or, you can join broader groups with people you don't know to share ideas and learn from others inside Facebook. And if you want to see what's going on, the top search bar lets you peek at what others have shared publicly.

Want to talk directly to one of your Facebook friends? Facebook has long include a live chat tool, which is now bundled in the separate Messenger app. Just like other chat tools, you can talk privately with one person or a group, in text or with live video and audio calls using Messenger's mobile apps. Messenger also includes bots and apps, so you can share GIFs and stickers or get info on your recent purchases from stores in Facebook Pages right inside your chat conversations.

Or, for a more SMS-like chat experience, you can use WhatsApp, a popular messaging app that's part of the Facebook family of apps. Along with WhatsApp and Messenger's apps, Facebook also includes apps to manage your Facebook Pages if you've made one to share info about your brand. For a photo-focused network without text updates, Instagram is another app in the Facebook family that lets you tweak and share photos in a mobile-friendly interface. And its new Facebook Business and Workplace tools help you market your brand online and let your company's team chat and share ideas using Facebook's tools.

One of the trickiest things to navigate in Facebook is privacy. With its focus on friends and family—along with its private chats in Messenger—it's easy to feel like Facebook is private. And it can be: you can set your posts to only show up to specific people, and can block others from seeing your account if you want. But it can also be a semi-public tool, as friends share your posts or by posting your own status updates publicly. That makes it worth checking Facebook's comprehensive privacy settings every so often, to make sure its set to keep your info the way you want.

Whether you love sharing what's happening every minute, or just want a quick diversion, Facebook is the social network that can be whatever you want. You could use just its companion Instagram and Messenger apps, or you could dive in with everything Facebook has to offer. With groups, company teams, family, and more, it's the one app where you can get in touch with almost anyone on earth.

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Facebook Features

  • Share photos and thoughts with friends, followers, and the world
  • Stream and share live video of events
  • Follow celebrities, brands, stores, and more for updates
  • Create groups to discuss interests
  • Use companion apps Messenger to chat and Instagram to tweak and share photos
  • Create a Facebook Page for your own brand to share info publicly
  • iOS, Android, Windows, and Web apps available

Facebook Pricing

  • Free
  • Facebook Pages includes paid ads, lead tools, store builders and more

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