The Facebook in Pittsburgh 10 years ago: PG covers new online phenomenon

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

The Facebook Ashleigh Kuhn Pitt 2004 Post-Gazette John Heller

Ashleigh Kuhn, then a Pitt student, sits at her computer in fall 2004 with a nine-month-old version of The Facebook on her screen. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

Ten years ago, exactly on Feb. 4, Mark Zuckerberg and a group of his Harvard classmates founded The Facebook (as it was known until 2005).

Back then was open to Harvard students only. Other Ivy League students were permitted to join in the summer that year and, soon thereafter, all college students could become members. Anyone with an .edu email address could sign up.

Pittsburgh-area students started getting access to it in the fall.

And to report on this exciting new phenomenon, the Post-Gazette assigned Bill Schackner to cover The Facebook locally.

His story from Nov. 28, 2004, began with an anecdote about Pitt senior Brian Kelly evaluating a friend request -- a novel concept at the time.

Kelly weighs the online request for all of two seconds, then uses a single keystroke to give his classmate the thumbs up. In the parlance of The Facebook, Kelly has just "friended" him. "He's a good kid. He was in my freshman studies class. I'm going to confirm it."

The article ran on the Sunday front page's top right column. The Facebook had clearly caught on by that point, even if high school students (and their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) would not be able to join for another year or so.

Schackner described more of the nascent Facebook behavior that is now common.

Why, for instance, do people with seemingly endless chances to socialize face to face on campus flock to such a site? Is having half as many Facebook friends as your roommate any reason to think about moving back home?

And he noticed the already-shifting meaning of being friends with someone.

Adding a Facebook friend to one's tally doesn't necessarily imply intent to spend time with that person. At Pitt, Kelly has amassed 345 friends in just over a month [...] but a few he has never met. "Nobody really rejects friends unless you really hate somebody," he said. "It's all pretty non-committal."

Julian Dunn, a Carnegie Mellon freshman from Harmony, predicted one of its enduring purposes, saying he used it most often "when I'm on the Internet and I'm bored."

For more on poking and other outdated features of The Facebook, here's a copy of the page from that Sunday.

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