My favourite part about helping Bloomberg TV with their biography of Mark Zuckerberg?Getting to look straight into a camera, channel my inner Jesse Eisenbeg, and say:
“I’m going to blank them. I’m going to blank them in the ear.”
Of course, that’s not exactly what Mark Zuckerberg told a confidant he planned to do to the Winklevoss brothers, business partners he’d agreed to build a Web site for back in 2003.
The actual instant message reads likes this:
Friend: So have you decided what you’re going to do about the websites?
Zuck: Yeah, I’m going to f— them
Zuck: Probably in the year
For the whole story, check out Bloomberg’s doc >>
Or read our story: At Last — The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded >>
“We can talk about that after I get all the basic functionality up tomorrow night.”
In the fall of 2003, Harvard seniors Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra were on the lookout for a web developer who could bring to life an idea the three say Divya first had in 2002: a social network for Harvard students and alumni. The site was to be called HarvardConnections.com.The three had been paying Victor Gao, another Harvard student, to do coding for the site, but at the beginning of the fall term Victor begged off the project. Victor suggested his own replacement: Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard sophomore from Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Back then, Mark was known at Harvard as the sophomore who had built Facemash, a “Hot Or Not” clone for Harvard. Facemash had already made Mark a bit of a celebrity on campus, for two reasons.
The first is that Mark got in trouble for creating it. The way the site worked was that it pulled photos of Harvard students off of Harvard’s Web sites. It rearranged these photos so that when people visited Facemash.com they would see pictures of two Harvard students and be asked to vote on which was more attractive. The site also maintained a list of Harvard students, ranked by attractiveness.
On Harvard’s politically correct campus, this upset people, and Mark was soon hauled in front of Harvard’s disciplinary board for students. According to a November 19, 2003 Harvard Crimson article, he was charged with breaching security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy. Happily for Mark, the article reports that he wasn’t expelled.
The second reason everyone at Harvard knew about Facemash and Mark Zuckerberg was that Facemash had been an instant hit. The same Harvard Crimson story reports that after two weeks, “the site had been visited by 450 people, who voted at least 22,000 times.” That means the average visitor voted 48 times.
It was for this ability to build a wildly popular site that Victor Gao first recommended Mark to Cameron, Tyler, and Divya. Sold on Mark, the Harvard Connection trio reached out to him. Mark agreed to meet.
They first met in the early evening on November 30 in the dining hall of Harvard College’s Kirkland House. Cameron, Tyler, and Divya brought up their idea for Harvard Connection, and described their plans to A) build the site for Harvard students only, by requiring new users to register with Harvard.edu email addresses, and B) expand Harvard Connection beyond Harvard to schools around the country. Mark reportedly showed enthusiastic interest in the project.
Later that night, Mark wrote an email to the Winklevoss brothers and Divya: “I read over all the stuff you sent and it seems like it shouldn’t take too long to implement, so we can talk about that after I get all the basic functionality up tomorrow night.”
The next day, on December 1, Mark sent another email to the HarvardConnections team. Part of it read, “I put together one of the two registration pages so I have everything working on my system now. I’ll keep you posted as I patch stuff up and it starts to become completely functional.”
These two emails sounded like the words of someone who was eager to be a part of the team and working away on the project. A few days later, however, Mark’s emails to the HarvardConnection team started to change in tone. Specifically, they went from someone who seemed to be hard at work building the product to someone who was so busy with schoolwork that he had no time to do any coding at all.
December 4: “Sorry I was unreachable tonight. I just got about three of your missed calls. I was working on a problem set.”
December 10: “The week has been pretty busy thus far, so I haven’t gotten a chance to do much work on the site or even think about it really, so I think it’s probably best to postpone meeting until we have more to discuss. I’m also really busy tomorrow so I don’t think I’d be able to meet then anyway.”
A week later: “Sorry I have not been reachable for the past few days. I’ve basically been in the lab the whole time working on a cs problem set which I”m still not finished with.”
Finally, on January 8:
Sorry it’s taken a while for me to get back to you. I’m completely swamped with work this week. I have three programming projects and a final paper due by Monday, as well as a couple of problem sets due Friday. I’ll be available to discuss the site again starting Tuesday.
I”m still a little sceptical that we have enough functionality in the site to really draw the attention and gain the critical mass necessary to get a site like this to run…Anyhow, we’ll talk about it once I get everything else done.
So what happened to change Mark’s tune about HarvardConnection? Was he so swamped with work that he was unable to finish the project? Or, as the HarvardConnection founders have alleged, was he stalling the development of HarvardConnection so that he could build a competing site and launch it first?
Our investigation suggests the latter.
As a part of the lawsuit against Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the above emails from Mark have been public for years. What has never been revealed publicly is what Mark was telling his friends, parents, and closest confidants at the same time.
Let’s start with a December 7th (IM) exchange Mark Zuckerberg had with his Harvard classmate and Facebook cofounder, Eduardo Saverin.
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