Most internet users have a Facebook account, though most of these users do not know much about the exact origins and the development of their favorite social media platform. By understanding how Facebook came about and how it became as successful as it is now can enrich our experience as users. Thus, I will explain the details of Facebook’s beginnings and growth.
Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University, was in his second year of undergraduate studies. In that year, he opened Facesmash: a website that allowed users to compare college students’ attractiveness. Based on information from the newspaper Crimson (Kaplan, Katharine), Facemash employed “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.” Though the website fared well, it was shut down by the Harvard administration. Despite being taken down, Zuckerberg continued development on similar projects. One of these comparative projects was a face book for Harvard (Kincaid, Jason).
In 2004, noticing that Harvard had no online face book, or a student directory showing photos and information, and that Harvard was stalling on this project, Zuckerberg began writing code for “TheFacebook” in January of 2004. By February 4th, “thefacebook.com” was launched (Rothman, Lily). The intention behind the website was not only about showcasing data about students, but also to create a way for Harvard students to connect. According to Zuckerberg’s 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. 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.” As one can you see, the demand for such a service was quite high.
Though “TheFacebook” was an overnight success, only six days after the launching of the site, three Harvard students—Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra—sent out accusations that Zuckerberg created a rival to a site they were developing called “HarvardConnection” based on their accumulated data (Carlson, Nicolas). These students brought their complaint to the newspaper Crimson, and the newspaper launched an investigation. The end result was a lawsuit, which was eventually settled.
Through this tribulation and possible corruption of Zuckerberg, many users joined. In its first month of service, “TheFacebook” garnered more than half of the undergraduates at Harvard as users (Phillips, Sarah). With these numbers, Zuckerberg found associates to work with him, such as Eduardo Saverin (business aspects), Dustin Moskovitz (programmer), Andrew McCollum (graphic artist), and Chris Hughes (spokesmen). With the expanded team came an expanded audience: “TheFacebook” opened up to all Ivy League universities and Boston-area schools. From this initial push, it captured the attention of most of the schools in the U.S. and Canada (Rosmarin, Rachel).
By the end of the summer of 2004, it was incorporated, and Sean Parker, an adviser of Zuckerberg, became the company’s president. Not only did it move in terms of control, but also location. Palo Alto, California, became its new home. Another big event following this move was “TheFacebook” becoming “Facebook” after the team purchased the domain name “facebook.com” in 2005 for $200,000 (Williams, Chris). This domain change made a huge difference, as by December 2005, Facebook had 6 million users—and the rest is internet history.
Starting from a Harvard dorm, Facebook began as an idea to integrate students and to make a universal tool for connection between internet users. From the brain of 23-year-old Zuckerberg (and others, evidently), Facebook has grown to encompass a culture that reaches far beyond its collegiate beginnings. Somehow, Facebook has weathered the storm of competition from other social media platforms, and who knows how it will affect our future as bright and bleak as ours.
Kaplan, Katharine A. (November 19, 2003). “Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board.” The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
Kincaid, Jason (October 24, 2009). “Startup School: An Interview With Mark Zuckerberg.” TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
Rothman, Lily (February 4, 2015). “Happy Birthday, Facebook.” Time. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
Cassidy, John (May 13, 2006). “Me Media.” The New Yorker. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
Carlson, Nicolas (March 5, 2010). “In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg Broke into a Facebook User’s Private Email Account.” Business Insider. Retrieved March 5, 2010.
Phillips, Sarah (July 25, 2007). “A Brief History of Facebook.” The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 7, 2008.
Rosmarin, Rachel (September 11, 2006). “Open Facebook.” Forbes. Retrieved June 13, 2008.
Williams, Chris (October 1, 2007). “Facebook Wins Manx Battle for Face-book.com.” The Register. Retrieved June 13, 2008.