We just published a new article (open accessðŸ”“): Helmond, Anne, David B. Nieborg, and Fernando N. van der Vlist. â€œFacebookâ€™s Evolution: Development of a Platform-as-Infrastructure.â€ Internet Histories 3, no. 2 (April 3, 2019): 123â€“46. https://doi.org/10.1080/24701475.2019.1593667.
In this article we present a methodological approach for tracing a platform’s evolution using archived sources from the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as a contribution to historical platform studies. Our empirical historical approach involves two complementary lines of enquiry. First, we consider the dynamics of Facebookâ€™s platform architecture and how its programmability evolved over the years to accommodate different stakeholder groups. Second, we consider another set of boundary resources: partnership programmes and related partner badges and certifications. Ultimately, a platformâ€™s control over this heterogeneous collection of resources raises significant political-economic questions.
The purpose of this article is to operationalise an evolutionary perspective on the history of social media and to trace Facebookâ€™s evolution from a social networking site to a â€œplatform-as-infrastructureâ€. 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 Facebookâ€™s programmability and corporate partnerships, we develop an empirical historical analysis of the platformâ€™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 Facebookâ€™s long-term evolution and discuss the interplay between ongoing processes of â€œplatformisationâ€ and â€œinfrastructuralisationâ€. We argue that these terms foreground complementary aspects of the platformâ€™s efforts in balancing its expansion and adaptability to changing user needs and other â€œenvironmental dynamicsâ€ 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.