In case you have not heard, Facebook (FB) goes public today and its initial public offering makes it the most valuable company at the time of its offering to ever go public. At $38 a share the company is valued at $104 billion.
While demand to own a stake in the tech giant has been much greater than any would have expected, a new AP-CNBC poll shows that 50 percent of Facebook users believe the social media network may be just a passing fad.
"I don't think it is structured as a fad," says David Kirkpatrick, a technology journalist and author of the preeminent book on Facebook, The Facebook Effect. "I think it is structured as a piece of infrastructure [and] there is nothing that could faddishly come along and replace it any time soon that I can identify."
Facebook currently has 901 million active users worldwide. In March, the site experienced an average of 526 million daily active users. There are 488 million monthly active users who use Facebook on mobile devices.
In the accompany video, Kirkpatrick asks us all to ponder just how difficult it would be for all those people to move all their photos and all their relationships from Facebook to another platform.
"I think it is fundamentally changing the lives of hundreds of millions of people," says Kirkpatrick, who is also the founder of the Techonomy conference.
Here are three big ways Facebook has changed our lives forever:
Facebook's Impact: A Return to Neighborly Communication
"The world historically was a world of villages and small towns," he says. "In a village you hear everybody's business."
But in recent history, more people are now living in big urban cities and not in small towns, he notes.
"Isn't it interesting that at exactly that moment, the most popular software ever invented for communications is one that creates that 'over the backyard fence quality' of the small town?" Kirkpatrick says. "I think people are living in cities and they want to know about people and Facebook makes it easier."
In 2010 Americans spent an average of 25 minutes a day on Facebook, according to comScore. More than 125 billion people had made connections on the social media site by the end of March 2012. In the first month of this year, users uploaded more than 300 million photos per day on Facebook.
"I think it has changed the way people relate to one another," Kirkpatrick says. "It has changed the visibility people have into one another's lives [and] you know everything your neighbors do."
Facebook's Impact: A Driver for Democracy
With roughly 80% of Facebook's monthly users located outside the U.S. and Canada, it is no huge surprise that Facebook is responsible for sparking the uprisings in the Middle East at the beginning of 2011, which started in Tunisia after a man selling fruits and vegetables set himself on fire in a market. He had been humiliated when police demanded him to hand over his cart for not having a permit.
His personal revolt ignited protests in Tunisia which spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
"Facebook was gigantic in the Arab Spring and in every other political uprising that we have heard of in Spain and the Occupy Movement because people do not think of it as a political act," say Kirkpatrick. "[Users] just update their status on Facebook" and "their friends see it and they are broadcasting without evening knowing it."
In 2009, a video showing the death of a young female Iranian protester, named Neda, shot by a government gunman gripped the world. The video went viral with the help of Facebook and other social media networks.
Facebook's Impact: Makes Sharing Media Content Easy
Facebook has forever changed the way people share media content with their friends — almost every site today has a "like" button for users to share content.
"The media recognized that if they do not have the ability to make it easy for people to share their content on Facebook, they are going to be in trouble," says Kirkpatrick.
An average of 3.2 billion "likes" and "comments" were generated every day in the first three months of the year.