Rip Van Winkle’d: Seven Year Evolution of Facebook

If you were a Facebook user who slipped into a coma in 2004 and just woke up, well, you might not recognize the new Facebook. Your 12-year-old brother and grandma are both on it and, oh, hey, there’s even a Marketplace to find your new apartment (because you’re about 7 years behind on your rent).

It all started out simply enough as an online community to connect with friends. You could tell your friends what you were doing (as long as it was in present tense) and write on their walls. But then new features were added– pretty soon there was the News Feed, which was subsequently flooded with news about your friend’s excessive use of “FarmVille” and albums full of the weekend’s activities. I remember thinking when the News Feed first showed up in 2006, “I hope this doesn’t last- this is really stupid.” But five years later, it’s still here to remind me of my mom’s birthday.

Soon, there was also a fancy new photo uploader, a marketplace, chat, and most recently “Deals.” Deals will offer Groupon-like specials in five cities (for starters). And how can you help pay for these Deals? With Facebook Credits, earned by watching certain ads on Facebook. Surprisingly, the “Poke” option has somehow escaped the evolutionary axe.

What has Facebook become? A hodgepodge of Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, Craigslist, AIM, Groupon, MySpace and an endless list of other services. In many ways, it’s more of a self-sustaining economy than a social media platform.

With all these changes, has Facebook changed its focus? Is it a relevant social media platform or the next Google/Amazon/Groupon/Flickr/Twitter hybrid?