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📄Research Article │ 🔍Refereed🔓Open Access

Facebook’s Evolution:
Development of a Platform-as-Infrastructure

📂History and Evolution of Facebook Platform The purpose of this article is to operationalise an evolutionary perspective on the history of social media and to trace Facebook’s evolution from a social networking site to a ‘platform-as-infrastructure’. Social media platforms such as Facebook change constantly on the level of their platform architectures, interfaces, governance frameworks, and control mechanisms, all while responding to their larger environments. By examining the evolution of Facebook’s programmability and corporate partnerships, we develop an empirical historical analysis of the platform’s boundary dynamics that ultimately determine its operational scale and scope. Based on our analysis of a unique set of archived primary sources, we discern four main stages in Facebook’s long-term evolution and discuss the interplay between ongoing processes of ‘platformisation’ and ‘infrastructuralisation’. We argue that these terms foreground complementary aspects of the platform’s efforts in balancing its expansion and adaptability to changing user needs and other ‘environmental dynamics’ without risking its integrations and embedding in other domains, such as advertising, marketing, and publishing. Ultimately, our contribution illustrates how empirical platform histories can denaturalise the current dominant position of social media platforms, such as Facebook, revealing over a decade of incremental evolution rather than revolution.

📋 ✍Cite

📋Cite (APA) Helmond, A., Nieborg, D. B., & van der Vlist, F. N. (2019). Facebook’s Evolution: Development of a Platform-as-Infrastructure. Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society, 3(2), 123–146. Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/24701475.2019.1593667.
🔗Link (DOI)

Kind Journal Article; Original Research Article
Author A. Helmond; D. B. Nieborg; F. N. van der Vlist
Designer F. N. van der Vlist
Publication Date 2019, May 1 [issue published]
Journal Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society
Volume 3
Issue 2
Pages 123–146 (24)
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Abingdon, United Kingdom)
Identifier 10.1080/24701475.2019.1593667 [self]; 2470-1475 [part of]; 2470-1483 [part of]; 275-45-009 [funded by]; 262513311 [funded by]
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Data Availability The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at


🖇Attached Name 🕓Date Modified ↧ Kind Access
Apps and Their Stories 2019-01 📝Web Report 🌍Public
Historical Facebook Platform ‘Boundary Resources’, 2006–2018 2018-12-07 🗄Research Data 🔓Open Access
The Political Economy of Social Data 2017-07-28 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔒Closed
Big Data Advertising Infrastructures 2016-09 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🌍Public