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February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

Posted February 04, 2010 2:30 PM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, four Harvard University students founded Facebook, a social networking website that now boasts over 350-million active users. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's president and CEO (image left), was then a computer science student whose claim to fame was the development of an application called Synapse that analyzed a listener's musical tastes and designed a suitable playlist.

The future billionaire was joined in his dorm room quest for the next "killer app" by two Economics majors, Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz; and Chris Hughes, a History and Literature student.

Privacy Concerns

Before he became the world's youngest self-made billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg was nearly expelled from Harvard. Zuckerberg, who had been coding since the sixth grade, created a site called Facemash that netted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours. According to the Harvard Crimson, Facemash displayed student images side-by-side and prompted users to choose the more physically attractive person. The photos were obtained without student consent, however, and Harvard hauled the hacker before its Administrative Board for "breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individuals' privacy".

Ultimately, Harvard dropped the charges against Zuckerberg, who then turned his talents to academic ends. During the fall of 2003, he created a study tool for his art history class by uploading 500 Augustan images and enabling comments. Students shared their notes and an on-line community was born. The following semester, Zuckerberg began coding a website that – unlike Facemash – would host student information, but only with the consent of his classmates. Thefacebook, originally located at thefacebook.com, was modeled after the printed "facebook" of students and faculty at Philips Exeter Academy, the New Hampshire boarding school that Mark Zuckerberg had attended.

A New Empire?

Within a month, more than half of Harvard's undergraduates had joined thefacebook.com. In March 2004, membership was extended to students at Columbia, Stanford, and Yale. Next, the site welcomed students from the rest of the Ivy League, colleges in the Boston area, and from most universities in the United States and Canada. As the fast-growing social networking site spread across the continent, Zuckerberg marveled at how far he had come since designing an application based on the board game Risk. "It was centered around the ancient Roman Empire," Zuckerberg told the Harvard Crimson about his gaming creation. "You played against Julius Caesar. He was good, and I was never able to win."

During the summer of 2004, the newly-incorporated Facebook Inc. moved to California's Silicon Valley. Under the direction of its first president, Sean Parker, the company launched a high school version before extending eligibility to employees of high-tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft. After paying $200,000 (USD) to acquire a new domain name, facebook.com, the company made another bold move. On September 26, 2006, Facebook welcomed everyone 13 years and older with a valid e-mail address. Today, the average user spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook and has 130 friends on the site.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2004/6/10/mark-e-zuckerberg-06-the-whiz/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Saverin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dustin_Moskovitz

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Hughes_%28Facebook%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

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#1

Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/04/2010 9:37 PM

Thanks, Now I know those companies using the copyrighted name Transcendia, owe me at least 400 grand.

Plus now I know why anything you write on Facebook is according to their agreement, theirs.

At least that's what it seems like...

One of the reasons I did not put up a photo album there, was that I was supposed to give them complete access to everything in my computer. I mean that's what it said?

Is that what they really meant?

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#2
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Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/04/2010 11:06 PM

"I was supposed to give them complete access to everything in my computer"

At least they are up front about it. Microsoft doesn't even like to admit that they lay claim to anything on your computer...

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Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/05/2010 9:49 AM

Many things have changed on the site since its inception, including the homepage. The TechCrunch blog posted screenshots of the evolution of the Facebook hompage, which I thought was pretty interesting. I heard also that the site is working towards offering voicemail features?? Should be interesting to see where it goes from here.

The privacy issue with Facebook continues to be frustrating though. It seems like once people get the hang of the settings, Facebook "improves" them - often to the confusion of users who are less than web-savvy, but still enjoy the site. After the last update, even if someone had their profile set to private, you can still see pictures and other features unless the user has specifically set them otherwise. You'd think that setting your profile to private would include all aspects of the profile, but that is not the case.

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#4

Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/05/2010 1:58 PM

Thanks for the comments, everyone. As I researched this topic, I was struck by the casual disregard for personal privacy that Mark Zuckerberg displayed in the "Facemash" incident. Apologists might explain his behavior as an example of youthful indiscretion (Zuckerberg himself blames a breakup with a girlfriend), but perhaps there's a pattern here.

When Facebook recently "updated" its privacy settings, Zuckerberg opined that people don't want privacy anyhow. Oh really? I wonder if he'd be willing to bet his billions that he's right about that one. Again, his disregard for others' privacy seems more casual than malicious - but it's still troubling.

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Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/05/2010 2:43 PM

Wonder what a breakup with a girlfriend had to do with it?

I'm tempted to go to internetarchive.org and look to see if early versions of Facebook, and all exist there.

I know when I was experimenting with posting photos, and thought I'd do a Facebook album, and read the notice that Facebook required full access to my computer to do that, I really wondered if I was having a problem comprehending what I was reading, as if, "What? Why?"

If privacy is so unimportant, why do they want access to what I see as my private information?

I am particularly uncomfortable with Family Link, for it is one thing for them to know who I am, and another for them to know who all of my family members might be.

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Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/05/2010 2:59 PM

In actual fact, privacy is pretty much an illusion, and has been far longer than the Internet has been around. Do you use a credit card? Ever think about how much information the credit card company actually has about your spending habits, your travels, your business associations? What about your income tax filing- how much information are you providing the government?

Actually, the Internet has improved individual privacy- there is so much information available, the cost of extracting valid information about any single user is pretty prohibitive. If you have secrets you don't want bandied about, don't store them on a computer. If you have really important secrets, Twitter them as widely as possible. If no one believes they are secrets, no one will pay attention to them...

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Re: February 4, 2004 – Facebook is Born

02/05/2010 7:04 PM

I have used the hiding in the open strategy for a long time. I just don't want to depend on it.

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