12 fun facts about Facebook on its 12th birthday

Facebook has designated Feb. 4, 2016 as "Friends Day" in celebration of the social networking site's 12th birthday. It's calling attention to how the site has connected people all over the world, with a Friends Day video montage appearing on user News Feeds, displaying photos of some memorable moments with friends and family.

Given Facebook's massive reach, it's easy to forget the site's humble Harvard University dorm room beginnings. The earliest incarnation of the site was Facesmash, which was launched October 28, 2003 by Mark Zuckerberg and Harvard classmates Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. That early site was designed as something of a "hot or not" game comparing pictures of different undergrads based on their attractiveness.

That earlier website laid the groundwork for Thefacebook.com, which launched on Feb. 4, 2004. Originally just open to Harvard students, the site soon expanded to Columbia, Yale, and Stanford, then the rest of the Ivy League and Boston-area schools, before spreading across the country and around the world.

Over the next decade, what started as a private website for college students became something that everyone from tweens to grandmothers were using. Facebook has grown by acquiring the likes of WhatsApp and Instagram, adding features that broaden the company's reach and appeal.

In honor of the site's 12th anniversary, click through to find out 12 fun facts about Facebook.

1.59 billion users

At the end of 2015, Facebook released some impressive statistics about how many people use the site. There were 1.59 billion monthly users of the site as of December 31, 2015.

For those browsing through their friends on their phones, the company reported that there were 1.44 billion mobile monthly active users.

On average, there were 1.04 billion daily active users on the site, according to the December 2015 statistics. The number of average mobile users was nearly as high, at 934 million a day.

This wide reach is global. Approximately 83.6 percent of these daily active users are outside the United States and Canada.

First 360-degree videos

Throughout the tech world, virtual reality is the name of the game. With its acquisition of Oculus VR in 2014, Facebook signaled that virtual reality content would play a big part in its future. In September 2015, Facebook introduced immersive 360-degree videos to users' News Feeds.

The videos offer scrollable panoramic photorealistic views, by dragging their cursors along the images on their desktops or tilting their phones when using the mobile version. One of the initial videos was "Star Wars"-themed to coincide with the most recent film in the series.

Speed across the Jakku desert from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with this immersive 360 experience created exclusively for Facebook.

Posted by Star Wars on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There are some viewing limitations for those trying to catch the clips: On desktops, these videos work in Chrome or Firefox but not Internet Explorer or Safari. For mobile devices, they require at least an iPhone 4s or an iPad 2 with iOS 7 or higher for Apple, and at least an Android 4.3, or newer, for Android.

Most popular person on Facebook

If Facebook is viewed as high school in the digital world, then who reigns supreme at the cool kids' table? Well, for awhile it was Colombian singer Shakira. The "Hips Don't Lie" hit-maker crossed the threshold with the most "liked" Facebook page in 2014.

But Shakira was unseated from her Facebook throne a little less than a year later, when Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed her with more likes. Both celebrities have over 100 million likes and counting. As of publication, Ronaldo has 109,243,536 likes versus Shakira's 104,415,432.

Most pokes

Probably one of the strangest Facebook features, the "poke" doesn't get much attention anymore, but rest assured, it still exists. The feature is simple -- users just hit "poke" on someone's Facebook and that individual gets a notification. It can be a way to get someone's attention, or just annoy that person with notifications.

RecordSetter.com reports that the person who has allegedly received the most pokes on Facebook is Yan D. from Singapore. The record-keeping site vets entries -- users have to present video proof of their supposed records form their public Facebook accounts. Right now, Yan D. has received 1,000,069 pokes on the site. While some other uses cried foul in the comments section of the site, citing the possibility that poke-generating apps might have been used, it is undeniable that those are a lot of pokes.

Most-liked photo

Everyone has those happy moments when you post a new profile picture or a selfie with a friend and suddenly you are inundated with "likes." President Barack Obama experienced that, too, just magnified by the millions. After winning re-election in 2012, a photo of Obama and the First Lady embracing with the caption "Four more years" generated the most likes of any photo in Facebook history.

As of now, the image has garnered 4,410,548 likes -- you know, just a few more than your standard selfie.

Facebook speaks "pirate," ye mateys

Shiver me timbers! For something less on the serious side, Facebook has a very surprising language option for those buccaneers out there who are tired of communicating in plain old English. In the site's exhaustive language drop-down menu, Facebook has an "English (Pirate)" option.

In "Pirate," for instance, your News Feed becomes "Home Port." Facebook itself is now "Ye olde Facebook." Looking at your activity log now becomes "Scour the Ship's Records." The fun, quirky feature is easy to find. In your settings, go to language and then simply choose the pirate option from the drop-down.

If the pirate's life is not for you, it's very easy to switch back.

Al Pacino: Facebook's "Godfather"

This is one of the more bizarre pieces of Facebook trivia, but the original "face" that appeared on the site belonged to none other than Oscar-winner Al Pacino.

In the original homepage design for the site, there was a pixelated, grim-looking, blue-and-white male face that appeared at the top of the site. In his book, "The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World," author David Kirkpatrick, the image was of a young Pacino from his "Godfather" days.

This original logo was removed from the site in 2007, Mashable reports.

3.5 degrees of separation

Forget six degrees of separation -- that number has now been trimmed down to 3.5 degrees. According to statistics from Facebook, two average users are now only separated by 3.5 degrees. That's even less than the 4-degree average in 2011. Facebook attributes this increase in connection between disparate people to the increasingly global reach of the site.

Coming out

In October, Facebook released data that showed more people are using the social media site to come out in record numbers. The site tracked data for a year, starting from National Coming Out Day -- October 11 -- in 2014. Over that 12-month period, 800,000 American users took to the site to come out.

That news came during a time when the site was being seen as becoming more inclusive to the LGBT community. In February 2014, Facebook created a "custom gender" option to give people the opportunity to identify beyond the male-female gender binary.

Last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, the number of people who switched their "interested in" status on their profiles doubled from an average day, when about 1 in 10 makes a change.

Keeping up with the Joneses

Not all news surrounding Facebook is good news. A 2013 study found that spending a lot of time on the social media site might be making users more depressed.

Researchers from the University of Michigan tracked 82 young adult Facebook users, texting their subjects at random intervals five times a day for two weeks, asking them how they felt and how often they used the site. They also asked them how often they interacted with other people out in the real world.

The study seemed to suggest that looking at other people's Facebook posts -- often happy or bragging about achievements or accomplishments -- may make people feel more dissatisfied about their lives.

Why so blue?

Facebook's now iconic blue-and-white color scheme is the product of Mark Zuckerberg's own color blindness. A 2010 New Yorker profile revealed that the company's CEO has red-green color blindness. So Facebook's cool blue is a color that works for him.

In the article, Zuckerberg asserted that "blue is the richest color for me -- I can see all of blue."

Politicians on Facebook

On Facebook's 12th birthday -- which also coincided with World Cancer Day -- Vice President Joe Biden became the first U.S. Vice President to launch a Facebook profile.

"I'd like it to be a place where we can talk directly about the issues that matter to both of us," Biden said in a statement.

He said Facebook could be a tool for his cancer outreach work.

Of course, Biden's boss, President Obama is a big fan of the social media site. Public relations firm Burson-Marsteller released a ranking of the most popular world leaders on Facebook, and Obama came in first with 46,414,177 likes on his personal page. The leader who had the most social engagement on his Facebook page was Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina.