This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

A Social Giant is Born

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February 4, 2004:  Facebook is Born

A student at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg opened a social networking site to just fellow students.  But that limitation was soon expanded to other Ivy League schools and ultimately to anyone.

It all began in February 2004 when a young Harvard Psychology student, by the name of Mark Zuckerberg, decided to create a way for other Harvard students to get to know each other and keep in touch over the internet.

He called it TheFacebook.com obtaining the idea from the Harvard printed publication of students’ profiles and photos given to students at the beginning of each academic year. Access to the website was firstly restricted to Harvard students and then, given its increasing popularity, it was extended soon after to other colleges like Yale, Stanford and Columbia.

Thefacebook

Facemash, The Facebook’s predecessor, opened on October 28, 2003.  Initially, the website was invented by a Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, and three of his classmates – Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz.  Zuckerberg wrote the software for the Facemash website when he was in his second year of college.

The website was set up as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. The website allowed visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them choose who was “hot” and who was “not”.

That night, Zuckerberg wrote the following blog entries:

I’m a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it’s not even 10 pm and it’s a Tuesday night?  What?  The Kirkland dormitory facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.

—9:49 pm

Yea, it’s on. I’m not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can’t really ever be sure with farm animals…), but I like the idea of comparing two people together.

—11:10 pm

Let the hacking begin.

—12:57 am

According to The Harvard Crimson, Facemash “used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the ‘hotter’ person”. To accomplish this, Mark Zuckerberg hacked the “facebooks” Harvard maintained to help students identify each other and used the images to populate his Facemash website.

In January 2004, Mark Zuckerberg began writing the code for a new website, known as ‘thefacebook’.  He said in an article in The Harvard Crimson that he was inspired to make Facebook from the incident of Facemash: “It is clear that the technology needed to create a centralized Website is readily available … the benefits are many.”

2-created-chat

On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook”, originally located at thefacebook.com.  He told The Crimson, “Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard. I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it as I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week.”

Zuckerberg also stated his intention to create a universal website that can contact people around the university.  According to his roommate, Dustin Moskovitz, “When Mark finished the site, he told a couple of friends … then one of them suggested putting it on the Kirkland House online mailing list, which was … three hundred people.” Moskovitz continued to say that, “By the end of the night, we were … actively watching the registration process. Within twenty-four hours, we had somewhere between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred registrants.”

After few months Zuckerberg, together with Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes, two of his Harvard friends who helped him to build Facebook, dropped out of Harvard and moved to Palo Alto, California to run the website as their sole occupation. In June 2004, after a coincidental meeting with the former co-creator of Napster, Sean Parker, Facebook received its first investment of US$500K from the co-founder of Pay-Pal, Peter Thiel.

In 2005 Facebook granted access to members belonging to recognized academic institutions and other organizations in USA, Canada and other English-speaking countries as long as they could provide a valid email I.D. associated with their institutions. In the same year the “The” was dropped and the domain Facebook.com was purchased for US$200K.  Two equity and venture capital firms Accel Partners and Greylock Partners invested respectively US$ 12.7mil and US$27.5mil.

According to an internal survey completed in September 2005 more than 85% of students of the enlisted universities had a Facebook account and at least 50% of them were accessing the website daily. In the following months there were few attempts to purchase Facebook – in September 2006 Mark Zuckerberg refused an offer from the internet giant Yahoo with prices close to the US$1 billion dollar mark.

Early Zuckerberg on Facebook:

 

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