By Dan Simon
(CNN) - Facebook is gearing up for what's expected to be the largest tech IPO in history.
Dan Simon takes a look at how far Facebook has come and the other social networks that didn't make it.
It may be the biggest, but Facebook wasn't the first social network.
To understand its rise, you also have to look at the missed opportunities, the blunders from the competition.
"Facebook from the very beginning has focused like a laser on the quality of their product, the quality of their user experience," said industry insider Greg Gretsch.
Something that wasn't done by rivals sites like MySpace and Friendster, according to Gretsch.
"Friendster's problem was performance. When their usage spiked, their page load times went from almost instantaneous to taking 30-40 seconds. Users wouldn't put up with that," said Gretsch.
The fall of MySpace was even more pronounced. Rupert Murdoch bought the site in 2005 for $580 million.
Last year it sold for $35 million.
"Those two companies both thought of themselves more as sort of fashion and truly socially businesses whereas Facebook through Zuckerberg thought of itself as a company using technology to make the world more social. He didn't think of it, and he still does not think of it today, as a social network," said David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect."
As the competition floundered, Zuckerberg assembled a world class team of engineers focusing entirely on the product, constantly rolling out new features and allowing other innovative companies to build on top of its platform.
Facbeook enabled the rise of Zynga, which made video games social. Zynga mushroomed into a $5 billion company.
The Facebook tentacles are long, virtually every company, and every new digital service considers its Facebook strategy.
"It has a capacity to bring sort of this social interaction that we have with our friends throughout everything we do in life. And the potential of that is vast," said Kirkpatrick.
But challenges lurk ahead.
Facebook has lagged in mobile, part of the reason it shelled out $1 billion for Instagram.
It also needs to keep growing its advertising and its user base while having to continually fend off competitors.
"What Mark Zuckerberg worries about is not the Googles of the world, he worries about the upstart. The three guys in the garage figuring out the new social network," said Gretsch.