Who Is the Man Behind the Face of Facebook?
Ladies and gentlemen, we would like you to meet (or at least hear about) one of the youngest, yet one of the most successful people in the world; Mr Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark was born on May 14th, 1984 in New York. Like most of the heroes we have brought to your attention in previous blogs, Mark showed signs of a specific skill and a strong passion at an early age. His interest in computers began when he was just a child and he understood the complex patterns, codes and technicalities like clockwork. To help him advance further with this habit-come-obsession, Mark’s parents hired a computer specialist to come and work with Mark once a week; this specialist, David Newman, later told reporters that it was hard to stay ahead of Mark and to teach him new functions, naming the child a “prodigy”.
By the time he was twelve, Mark had produced his first messaging programme on Atari BASIC which he called Zucknet. It was a simple but splendid service that allowed short messages to pass between devices – his own father, Edward Zuckerberg (who was a dentist), used the system at his dental surgery so that his receptionist could alert him to who his next client was without having to shout across the room. Sound familiar? Yes, this was no doubt a very early version of Facebook Messenger which most of us have directly downloaded as an app onto our mobile phones.
Harvard to Hero.
Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard University. Faster than his knowledge of computers had grown, he had earnt himself a reputation for the go-to-software-developer on campus. It was here, in the confines of his student dorm room, that Mark created the foundation of Facebook. It started as an entertainment page where Mark used students’ photos from Harvard’s student book, programmed two to stand side by side for people to choose the most attractive of the pair, before moving onto the next option. Unfortunately for him (but luckily for all the students whose faces he had used) the university deemed this site inappropriate since he had not asked for permission to use the photos, shut the site down and forced Mark to issue apologies. This was called Facemash, which would later become the inspiration for the name of Facebook.
Fellow students approached Mark not long after this, his reputation having grown since Facemash. Divya Narendra, and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss had an idea for a social networking programme called Harvard Connection, requesting Mark’s help in its functioning. Initially, Mark agreed to be a part of the project, but he later pulled out to focus on his own social networking programme…Facebook.
Facebook grew rapidly. It was run from behind his dorm room door until June 2004 when Mark dropped out during his sophomore year and moved to California to focus further on his most prized possession. By the end of 2004, Facebook had 1 million users. This number grew to over 5.5 million in 2005 after he’d gained a huge investment of $12.7 million from Accel Partners. Soon, he was attracting companies looking to advertise and market themselves on his network.
Brainiac or Backstabber?
2006 is when things took a turn for the worse. The creators of Harvard Connection – Narendra and the Winklevoss twins – insisted that Mark stole their idea, merely tweaking a few details (such as the name) to make it seem like his own. Arguments ensued as to whether he had come up with Facebook on his own or whether he had stolen the brainwave from his old business partners. They wanted compensation for their business losses had they beaten Mark online, which was already a high amount. Despite an initial settlement of $65 million, the Harvard Connection creators carried on legal disputes into 2011, believing they had been misled with regards to the value of their stock.
Perhaps you have heard of a film called The Social Network? That film is based on a book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires, which puts its own spin on Mark’s story. The contents are disputed by Mark who says there are fictional characters, untrue scenes, and invented dialogue.
Despite everything Mark went through, including all the legal drama, he has continued to improve Facebook throughout the years. It had its Initial Public Offering in 2012 (IPO) which happened to be the biggest IPO in history. It now has a net-worth of over $6.9 billion and 1.86 billion active users a month. Furthermore, to prove his good heart, Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an open letter to his new-born daughter that he and his wife would donate 99% of their Facebook shares to charity during their lifetime – which was then at $45 billion. That is the kind of man who has become the face of Facebook. Just…wow.
We hope this has inspired you not only to Face down all the haters, but also to share your experience in the most decent of ways.
For more inspirational stories, read our blog.