'The Facebook literally took me a week to make': Looking at the early days of the social network
Exactly seven years ago Friday -- before Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire and Time's Person of the Year, "The Social Network" was nominated for eight Academy Awards, Facebook had 500 million users and was valued at $50 billion -- Facebook was launched by students in a Harvard University dormitory room.
The Harvard Crimson -- Harvard's student-run newspaper -- chronicled the company's growth from Day 1. Ever heard of a Facebook feature called Wirehog? Did you know Columbia University students attempted to "Google-Bomb" Facebook? Or that Zuckerberg apparently once read "C++ For Dummies"? I dug through the online archives of the Crimson and came up with what I believe are the 10 most interesting articles from the early days of the social network.
10. "I'm not coming back."
(Nov. 1, 2005) -- Zuckerberg returned to the Harvard campus to recruit students for his company and to say he was leaving for good. He said his company was humble -- he was making just $65,000 a year -- but (and this is a big but in hindsight) employees would also receive company stock.
9. "Any CS50 questions?"
(Dec. 8, 2005) -- Shortly after dropping out and moving to Palo Alto, Calif., Zuckerberg returned to Harvard to give a talk to a computer science class. "We're focusing not on building something and how to make money out of it but, instead, always looking to maximize the long-term value," Zuckerberg told the class. Longterm value? Like a $50 billion valuation?
8. "Some paint, some sing -- he Facebooks. It just comes naturally."
(Feb. 17, 2005) -- There was another student at Harvard who spent a lot of time on Facebook. But this student wasn't a co-founder or anything. He just spent a lot of time using Facebook, or The Facebook as it was first called. Bryan A. Haut made it into the Crimson because he was a member of 1,100 groups.
7. "Poking aside, both are Friendster knockoffs made unique by their exclusivity."
(Sept. 15, 2004) -- The legal battle between Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Divya Narendra and Mark Zuckerberg is well documented. But before it really heated up, the Crimson tried to cool it down with an editorial that said "It's time for the cyber-networking-clone wars to stop." I guess it wasn't persuasive enough as the Winklevoss twins are still battling Zuckerberg.
6. "I'm a bit curious to see if Mark's website is a short-term phenomenon."
(Feb. 18, 2004) -- At this point in the company's lifespan, Zuckerberg said he had "no idea why it's so popular." Just weeks after Facebook launched, it had reeled in 4,300 members on the Cambridge, Mass., campus. Students were clearly hooked -- although one was skeptical of its potential as a longterm social network.
5. "The Facebook literally took me a week to make."
(June 10, 2004) -- Four months later, Facebook hit the 160,000-users mark. The site was receiving national recognition and Zuckerberg had already made his television debut on CNBC. A profile on Zuckerberg reveals a lot of gems, including the fact that Zuckerberg once studied from "C++ For Dummies" and that Facebook "almost didn't happen:
4. "I need to think of something to occupy my mind. Easy enough -- now I just need an idea..."
(Nov. 4, 2003) -- The first 20 minutes of the film "The Social Network" depicted Zuckerberg's creation of facemash.com, a hotornot.com-like Harvard site that was an overnight hit on campus and got the college freshman into hot water. The short-lived venture was built as Zuckerberg simultaneously blogged about it. "Let the hacking begin," he wrote around 1 a.m.
3. "I think Wirehog will probably spread in the same way that thefacebook did."
(Oct. 20, 2004) -- As Facebook passed the 500,000-member mark, Zuckerberg rolled out a new project called Wirehog. "The program, named Wirehog, allows digital 'friends' to connect to each other's computers and download files, from documents to music to movies."
2. "Somebody ought to Google-Bomb The Facebook and knock them into Google obscurity."
(March 9, 2004) -- As Facebook exploded on campuses across the country, Columbia University students tried to stage a "cyber-revolution" against Facebook because they felt it was encroaching on their own site called CUcommunity. One student was "pretty annoyed by thefacebook.com's attempt to rip off CUcommunity's idea and usurp our online community." I don't think the Google-Bomb worked.
1. "I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week."
(Feb. 9, 2004) -- Virtually every move Mark Zuckerberg makes these days gets covered worldwide. He has appeared on "60 Minutes", "The Oprah Winfrey Show", and recently Saturday Night Live. In the first article ever written about Facebook, Zuckerberg said "that he did not create the Web site with the intention of generating revenue." At this point, Facebook had 650 members.
More links on the early days of Facebook:
-We asked our Facebook friends: What do you think your status update would have been -- 7 years ago?
-The raw blog entries from when Zuckerberg was creating Facemash.
-A March 2004 story on how "Thefacebook.com craze has swept through campus" at Stanford University.
-A Read Write Web article detailing how Zuckerberg's high school days contributed to the founding of Facebook.
-A Business Insider piece on how Zuckerberg allegedly hacked the Crimson.
-A May 26, 2010 article from TechCrunch titled "Wirehog, Zuckerberg's Side Project That Almost Killed Facebook."
-Washington Post's "Five Myths" about Facebook.
-Photos of Zuckerberg.
Do you remember the first time you used Facebook? How did you hear about it and why did you decide to join? Comment below!
| February 4, 2011; 10:17 AM ET
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