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Happy 10th birthday, Facebook. But instead of getting something for the world’s largest online community on the 10th anniversary of its launch, the social media giant is today offering its 1.2 billion users a present — a personalized memory of high points in your life on the site.

The Look Back feature gives each user either a collection of most liked photos, a “thank you” card , or a high-def personalized movie —  depending on the amount of content they’ve posted. The minute-plus movie, generated through the months-long efforts of a small team of engineers and a sizeable army of rendering servers, reminds one of those “look back” tributes popular at engagement parties and bar mitzvahs, but the zooming and sliding dozen or so photos, date stamps, selected text posts, and swelling music track will likely lump at least a few throats.

In a posting Tuesday on the site, Zuckerberg recalled “getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook.” He said he was excited to connect the Harvard community, but he remembers telling his friends that “one day, someone needed to connect the whole world.”

He asks: Why were he and his student colleagues the ones to build the world’s largest community? Other social sites existed before Facebook, including popular ones like Friendster. “We just cared more” about connecting the world, he said.

Now, Zuck’s ambition for connection has grown proportionally. On his wish list for the next 10 years: Helping to connect the two-thirds of the planetary population that does not have Net access and using social networks to answer questions and solve complex problems.

Trying to assess the 10-year-old Facebook, Time attempts an It’s a Wonderful Life angle on the company’s lifespan — what if it had never been born? But in a way, that’s not quite the right question.

For many users, Facebook has become the Internet — in developed countries where more than few people park themselves on the site or in emerging markets where Facebook is driving ‘Net access. For most users, it has gone even beyond that — it’s become the keeper and the enabler of memories. A personal event is granted historical status when it is posted on Facebook.

Appropriately, the Look Back present asks, in effect: What would your memories have been without Facebook?

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