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The latest news on ConnectU from Business Insider

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    Mark Zuckerberg

    This is the story of how, in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson reporters using data obtained from TheFacebook.com's logs. The details are drawn from a broader investigation of the origins of Facebook, the sourcing of which is described here.

    Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg now runs a site that 400 million people visit each month.

    But back in May 2004, he was a 19-year-old finishing up his sophomore year at Harvard.

    He was also the acclaimed founder and creator of an increasingly popular Web site called TheFacebook.com, which had launched in February 2004.

    As we've reported in detail in a separate story, the launch of TheFacebook.com was not without controversy. Just six days after the site launched, three Harvard seniors, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, accused Mark of intentionally misleading them into believing he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com, while he was instead using their ideas to build a competing product.

    After Mark launched TheFacebook.com, Cameron, Tyler and Divya hired a series of developers to build HarvardConnection -- the site Mark Zuckerberg had told them he would build but did not. By mid-May, the trio had a site ready for launch. By then the site's name had changed from HarvardConnection to ConnectU.

    Sometime during the 14 days leading up to May 28 -- the editors at Harvard's student newspaper, the Crimson, received an email in the their "tips" inbox from Cameron Winklevoss, one of the founders of ConnectU.

    This email presented the argument Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divvya Narenda had already brought to Harvard's Administration Board and to Mark Zuckerberg -- that TheFacebook.com was the product of Mark Zuckerberg's fraud against the ConnectU team.

    Since the Winklevoss brothers were best known at Harvard for being exceptional rowers, the story was assigned to Crimson sports writer Tim McGinn. After a phone call, Tim hosted Tyler, Cameron, and Divya in his office at the Crimson. The four of them went over emails between Cameron and Mark.

    After the ConnectU team left, the Crimson invited Mark into its offices to defend himself. 

    When Mark arrived at the Crimson, he asked Tim and Elisabeth Theodore, an editor helping with the story, to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that he could show them the work he'd done on HarvardConnection. Per Crimson policy, Tim and Elisabeth refused to sign the NDA.

    harvard crimson buildingMark lingered around the office, evidently hoping they would change their mind. Finally, Mark agreed to forgo the NDA.

    On a Crimson computer, Mark brought up what he described as the work he did on HarvardConnection.  He gave Tim and Elisabeth a guided tour of the site. Mark's goal seemed to have been to show Tim and Elizabeth, the Crimson reporter and editor, that, other than the ways in which social networks are all the same, there were no features or designs in the work he did on HarvardConnection.com that ended up in theFacebook.com.

    Mark's demonstration was successful: After he left, the Crimson decided not to run a story.  Tim emailed Tyler, Cameron, and Divya to tell them that the story would not run. He contacted Mark to say the the same thing.

    But then, perhaps a day or so later, the Winklevoss brothers reached out to Tim McGinn again, this time to tell him that another Harvard rower -- one named John Thomson -- had told them that Mark had stolen something for TheFacebook from him, too. They told Tim that John's claim was that Mark Zuckerberg stole from him the idea for a TheFacebook feature called "Visualize Your Buddy." 

    With a new accusation at hand, the Crimson decided to re-open its investigation.  Tim McGinn called Mark and told him about about John's claim and gave him a chance to deny it. Mark denied the claim and got very upset -- apparently because he felt he had been promised there would be no story.

    For the rest of that night and into the next morning, Tim and his editor Elisabeth Theodore attempted to follow-up with John Thomson. After they finally reached him, John told them that he made the whole Mark Zuckerberg anecdote up in order to impress the Winklevoss brothers, who were important members of the rowing team. [As an aside, kudos to the journalism at the Crimson!]

    Tim and Elisabeth decided to drop John's claims from the story. But, this time, they decided to go ahead and publish a story on ConnectU's claims against Facebook.

    Mark Zuckerberg was not content to wait until the morning to find out if the Crimson would include John's accusations in its story.

    Instead, he decided to access the email accounts of Crimson editors and review their emails.  How did he do this?  Here's how Mark described his hack to a friend:

    Mark used his site, TheFacebook.com, to look up members of the site who identified themselves as members of the Crimson.  Then he examined a log of failed logins to see if any of the Crimson members had ever entered an incorrect password into TheFacebook.com.  If the cases in which they had entered failed logins, Mark tried to use them to access the Crimson members' Harvard email accounts.  He successfully accessed two of them.

    In other words, Mark appears to have used private login data from TheFacebook to hack into the separate email accounts of some TheFacebook users.

    In one account he accessed, Mark saw an email from Crimson writer Tim McGinn to Cameron, Tyler, and Divya. Another email Mark read was this one, from Crimson managing editor Elisabeth Theodore to Tim McGinn:

    From: Elisabeth Susan Theodore
    To: Timothy John McGinn
    Subject: Re: Follow-up

    OK, he did seem very sleazy. And I thought that some of his answers to the questions were not very direct or open. I also thought that his reactiont o the website was very very weird. But, even if it's true so what? It's an [redacted] thing ot od but it's not illegal, right?

    We reached out to Tim McGinn and Elisabeth Theodore for comment.  Both declined to comment.

    When we reviewed the details of this story with Facebook, the company had this comment:

    "We’re not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook’s early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook's growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people."

    We're certainly not questioning the latter fact: Facebook's success has been awe-inspiring.  Given the significant concerns about privacy online in general and at Facebook in particular, however, it seems reasonable to ask what the company's reaction -- and Mark's reaction -- is to the reported behavior above.

    In the past, Facebook has told us: "Facebook respects user privacy and access to site usage and profile information is restricted at the company. Any Facebook employees found to be engaged in improper access to user data will be disciplined or terminated."

    It is clear that the events described above would be a direct violation of Facebook's current policy, which has now been in place for several years. The policy was not in place at the time of the events described above.

    A source close to the company suggests that it was the fallout from early privacy violations like this one -- fallout that has included reputational damage to Mark Zuckerberg and expensive and prolonged litigation with ConnectU -- that has shaped Facebook's current privacy policies and made Mark the CEO he is today.

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  • 03/05/10--01:00: The Origins Of Facebook
  • Mark Zuckerberg

    The following series of stories detail some of what happened in 2003 and 2004 after then Harvard-sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched a site called theFacebook.com.  This site, of course, quickly grew into the dominant global site known as Facebook, which is now used by some 400 million people a month.

    The stories are based on a long investigation into the origins of Facebook that included interviews with more than a dozen sources familiar with aspects of what happened, as well as what we believe to be relevant IMs and emails from the period.  Much of the information has never been reported.

    The stories detail some troubling behavior by Facebook's then 19-year old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, including using members' Facebook login information to break into members' private email accounts and hacking into a competitor's site and changing user profiles. 

    A source close to the company suggests that the fallout from this behavior has played a profound role in shaping Facebook's current privacy policies and Mark's current attitudes and conduct as a now 25-year old CEO.  One can only hope so.

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    ConnectU Founders

    This is the story of how, in the summer of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into a Facebook rival called ConnectU, whose founders had accused him of stealing their idea to build Facebook.  The details of this story were developed from a broader investigation of the origins of Facebook.  The investigation included interviews with more than a dozen sources over two years, as well as what we believe to be relevant IMs and emails from the period.

    During the summer of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg's new social network theFacebook.com was already wildly popular.

    After Mark launched it in February, the site dominated the conversation at Harvard all spring.  It reached 250,000 users by the end of August and a million users that fall.

    TheFacebook.com was so popular that one thing Mark probably never needed to worry about was competition from the other social network launched at Harvard in 2004, ConnectU, whose founders had accused him of stealing their idea.

    ConnectU's founders -- Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra -- had launched the site that spring at 15 schools. But it never gained anywhere close to the critical mass of user adoption that Facebook did. Today, 400 million people visit Facebook each month while ConnectU exists only in the Internet archives.

    Nevertheless, during 2004, Mark Zuckerberg still appeared to be obsessed with ConnectU. Specifically, he appears to have hacked into ConnectU's site and made changes to multiple user profiles, including Cameron Winklevoss's.

    At one point, Mark appears to have exploited a flaw in ConnectU's account verification process to create a fake Cameron Winklevoss account with a fake Harvard.edu email address.

    In this new, fake profile, he listed Cameron's height as 7'4", his hair color as "Ayran Blond," and his eye color as "Sky Blue." He listed Cameron's "language" as "WASP-y."

    Next, Mark appears to have logged into the accounts of some ConnectU users and changed their privacy settings to invisible.  The idea here was apparently to make it harder for people to find friends on ConnectU, thus reducing its utility.   Eventually, Mark appears to have gone a step further, deactivating about 20 ConnectU accounts entirely.

    Mark appeared to be worried about the risk of his actions, but reasoned that ConnectU's developers wouldn't notice a succession of account deactivations coming from the same IP address. He took comfort that Apache logs didn't reveal that type of activity either. Mark also figured that if ConnectU developers did notice anything, their most natural conclusion would be to think that someone had emailed people convincing them to deactivate their accounts.

    It is not clear how Mark accessed these accounts. (In an earlier hack of the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson editors, he used login information stored in Facebook's servers.)  It does appear that he retained access to ConnectU's servers for quite some time.

    When we reviewed the details of this story with Facebook, the company had this comment:

    "We’re not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook’s early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook's growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people."

    We're certainly not questioning the latter fact: Facebook's success -- and Mark's role in it -- have been awe-inspiring. 

    Given the significant concerns about online privacy and ethics, however, it seems reasonable to ask what the company's reaction -- and Mark's current reaction -- is to the reported behavior above.

    A source close to the company suggests that it was the fallout from early behavior like this -- fallout that has included reputational damage to Mark Zuckerberg and expensive and prolonged litigation with ConnectU -- that has shaped Facebook's current privacy policies.  We imagine -- or at least hope -- that these searing early mistakes have also a profound influence on the now 25-year-old Mark Zuckerberg.

     

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    Mark Zuckerberg

    The origins of Facebook have been in dispute since the very week a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg launched the site as a Harvard sophomore on February 4, 2004. 

    Then called "thefacebook.com," the site was an instant hit.  Now, six years later, the site has become one of the biggest web sites in the world, visited by 400 million people a month.

    The controversy surrounding Facebook began quickly.  A week after he launched the site in 2004, Mark was accused by three Harvard seniors of having stolen the idea from them. 

    This allegation soon bloomed into a full-fledged lawsuit, as a competing company founded by the Harvard seniors sued Mark and Facebook for theft and fraud, starting a legal odyssey that continues to this day.

    New information uncovered by Silicon Alley Insider suggests that some of the complaints against Mark Zuckerberg are valid.  It also suggests that, on at least one occasion in 2004, Mark used private login data taken from Facebook's servers to break into Facebook members' private email accounts and read their emails--at best, a gross misuse of private information. Lastly, it suggests that Mark hacked into the competing company's systems and changed some user information with the aim of making the site less useful.

    The primary dispute around Facebook's origins centered around whether Mark had entered into an "agreement" with the Harvard seniors, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and a classmate named Divya Narendra, to develop a similar web site for them -- and then, instead, stalled their project while taking their idea and building his own.

    The litigation never went particularly well for the Winklevosses.

    In 2007, Massachusetts Judge Douglas P. Woodlock called their allegations "tissue thin." Referring to the  agreement that Mark had allegedly breached, Woodlock also wrote, "Dorm room chit-chat does not make a contract." A year later, the end finally seemed in sight: a judge ruled against Facebook's move to dismiss the case. Shortly thereafter, the parties agreed to settle.

    But then, a twist.

    After Facebook announced the settlement, but before the settlement was finalized, lawyers for the Winklevosses suggested that the hard drive from Mark Zuckerberg's computer at Harvard might contain evidence of Mark's fraud. Specifically, they suggested that the hard drive included some damning instant messages and emails.

    The judge in the case refused to look at the hard drive and instead deferred to another judge who went on to approve the settlement. But, naturally, the possibility that the hard drive contained additional evidence set inquiring minds wondering what those emails and IMs revealed.  Specifically, it set inquiring minds wondering again whether Mark had, in fact, stolen the Winklevoss's idea, screwed them over, and then ridden off into the sunset with Facebook.

    Unfortunately, since the contents of Mark's hard drive had not been made public, no one had the answers.

    But now we have some.

    Over the past two years, we have interviewed more than a dozen sources familiar with aspects of this story -- including people involved in the founding year of the company. We have also reviewed what we believe to be some relevant IMs and emails from the period.  Much of this information has never before been made public.  None of it has been confirmed or authenticated by Mark or the company.

    Based on the information we obtained, we have what we believe is a more complete picture of how Facebook was founded.  This account follows.

    And what does this more complete story reveal?

    We'll offer our own conclusions at the end.  But first, here's the story:

    Continue onto page 2 →

    "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.

    winklevoss twinsIt 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 an early evening in late November 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 skeptical 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.  

    Continue -->



    "They made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them."

    Former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel gets a lot of credit for being the first investor in Facebook, because he led the first formal Facebook round in September of 2004 with a $500,000 investment at a $5 million valuation.  But the real "first investor" claim to fame should actually belong to a Harvard classmate of Mark Zuckerberg's named Eduardo Saverin.

    To picture Eduardo, what you need to know is that he was the kid at Harvard who would wear a suit to class. He liked to give people the impression that he was rich -- and maybe somehow connected to the Brazilian mafia.  At one point, in an IM exchange, Mark told a friend that Eduardo -- "head of the investment society" -- was rich because "apparently insider trading isn't illegal in Brazil."

    Eduardo Saverin wasn't directly involved with Facebook for long: During the summer of 2004, when Mark moved to Palo Alto to work on Facebook full time, Eduardo took a high-paying internship at Lehman Brothers in New York.  While Mark was still at Harvard, however, Eduardo appears to have bankrolled Facebook's earliest capital expenses, thus becoming its initial investor.

    In January, however, Mark told a friend that "Eduardo is paying for my servers." Eventually, Eduardo would agree to invest $15,000 in a company that would, in April 2004, be formed as Facebook LLC.  For his money, Eduardo would get 30% of the company.

    Eduardo was also involved in Facebook's earliest days, as a confidant of Mark Zuckerberg.

    In December, 2003, a week after Mark's first meeting with the HarvardConnection team, when he was telling the Winklevosses that he was too busy with schoolwork to work on or even think about HarvardConnection.com, Mark was telling Eduardo a different story.  On December 7, 2003, we believe Mark sent Eduardo the following IM:

    Check this site out: www.harvardconnection.com and then go to harvardconnection.com/datehome.php. Someone is already trying to make a dating site. But they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I'm like delaying it so it won't be ready until after the facebook thing comes out.

    This IM suggests that, within a week of meeting with the Winklevosses for the first time, Mark had already decided to start his own, similar project--"the facebook thing."  It also suggests that he had developed a strategy for dealing with his would-be competition: Delay developing it.

    Continue -->



    "I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I'm supposed to have their thing ready and then be like look yours isn't as good"

    A few weeks after the initial meeting with the HarvardConnection team, after Mark sent the IM to Eduardo Saverin talking about developing "the facebook thing" and delaying his development of HarvardConnection, Mark met with the HarvardConnection folks, Cameron, Tyler, and Divya, for a second time. 

    This time, instead of meeting in the dining hall of Mark's residential hall, Kirkland House, the four met in Mark's dorm room. Divya is said to have arrived late.

    In Kirkland House, the dorm rooms aren't laid out in cinder-block-cube style: Mark's room had a narrow hallway connecting it to his neighbor's. As Cameron and Tyler sat down on a couch in Mark's room, Cameron spotted something in the hallway. On top of a bookshelf there was a white board. It was the kind Web developers and product managers everywhere use to map out their ideas.

    On it, Cameron read two words, "Harvard Connection." He got up to go look at it. Immediately, Mark asked Cameron to stay out of the hallway.

    Eventually Divya arrived and the four of them talked about plans for Harvard Connection. One feature Mark brought up was designed to keep more popular and sought-after Harvard Connection users from being stalked and harassed by crowds of people.

    In this second meeting, Mark still appeared to be actively engaged in developing Harvard Connection.  But he never showed the HarvardConnection folks any site prototypes or code.  And they didn't insist on seeing them.

    During the weeks in which Mark was juggling the two projects in tandem, he also had a series of IM exchanges with a friend named Adam D'Angelo (above).

    Adam and Mark went to boarding school together at Phillips Exeter Academy. There, the pair became friends and coding partners. Together they built a program called Synapse, a music player that supposedly learned the listener's taste and then adapted to it. Then, in 2002 Mark went to Harvard and Adam went to Cal Tech.  But the pair stayed in close touch, especially through AOL instant messenger. Eventually, Adam became Facebook's CTO.

    Harvard Yard at WinterThrough the Harvard Connection-Facebook saga and its aftermath, Mark kept Adam apprised of his plans and thoughts.

    One purported IM exchange seems particularly relevant on the question of how Mark distinguished between the two projects--the "facebook thing" and "the dating site"--as well as how he was considering handling the latter:

    Zuck: So you know how I'm making that dating site

    Zuck: I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing

    Zuck: Because they're probably going to be released around the same time

    Zuck: Unless I fuck the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I'd have it done.

    D'Angelo: haha

    Zuck: Like I don't think people would sign up for the facebook thing if they knew it was for dating

    Zuck: and I think people are skeptical about joining dating things too.

    Zuck: But the guy doing the dating thing is going to promote it pretty well.

    Zuck: I wonder what the ideal solution is.

    Zuck: I think the Facebook thing by itself would draw many people, unless it were released at the same time as the dating thing.

    Zuck: In which case both things would cancel each other out and nothing would win. Any ideas? Like is there a good way to consolidate the two.

    D'Angelo: We could make it into a whole network like a friendster. haha. Stanford has something like that internally

    Zuck: Well I was thinking of doing that for the facebook. The only thing that's different about theirs is that you like request dates with people or connections with the facebook you don't do that via the system.

    D'Angelo: Yeah

    Zuck: I also hate the fact that I'm doing it for other people haha. Like I hate working under other people. I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I'm supposed to have their thing ready and then be like "look yours isn't as good as this so if you want to join mine you can…otherwise I can help you with yours later." Or do you think that's too dick?

    D'Angelo: I think you should just ditch them

    Zuck: The thing is they have a programmer who could finish their thing and they have money to pour into advertising and stuff. Oh wait I have money too. My friend who wants to sponsor this is head of the investment society. Apparently insider trading isn't illegal in Brazil so he's rich lol.

    D'Angelo: lol

    Continue -->



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    In a series of posts on Friday, we shed new light on what really happened when Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at Harvard in 2003 and 2004.

    We reported:

    Today, we went on Bloomberg Television to talk about it:

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    Harvard graduates Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra say Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea. David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, doesn't buy it.

    Don't Miss...

    At Last -- The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded

    Produced By: Kamelia Angelova & William Wei 

    More Video: CLICK HERE >

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    We've published a series of stories detailing some of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's youthful foibles around the time he founded the company.

    The lowlights:

    • Shortly after Facebook's founding, Mark described users who trusted the site with their private information (such as the above reporter) as "dumb fucks."
    • Before creating Facebook, Mark agreed to partner with other Harvard seniors to create a social network. In IMs, he tells friends that the plans to "fuck them in the ear" and launch his own site instead.

    Last week at the D8 conference, Mark himself finally addressed these reports. He said:

    "I did a lot of stupid things right when I was in college. I don't want to make an excuse for that. I'm really sorry I did that…Some of the things people accuse me of are true. Some of them aren't…Some IMs have been printed, there are pranks, there are blogs…There's been a lot of space between that early stuff and where we are now.  If I knew what I knew now, then, then I hope I wouldn't have made those mistakes. But I can't go back and change the past. I can only do what I think is the right thing going forward."

    Here's the relevant 3-minute bit from All Things D's hour-long video (also a must watch). Watch:

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    winklevoss brothers harvard

    Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are entrepreneurs, twins, Olympic rowers, and Harvard graduates. They are best known, however, for alleging that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them back in early 2004.

    The brothers sued Zuckerberg and Facebook in the fall of 2004. After many years of legal back-and-forth, the Winklevosses won a settlement from Facebook estimated to be worth $50 million or more.

    The Winklevoss's allegations helped fuel an image of Facebook CEO Zuckerberg as a sleazy, untrustworthy punk--an image that the forthcoming Facebook movie, The Social Network, apparently hammers home.

    The Winklevoss brothers, meanwhile, have been cast as victims--honorable, clean-cut, scholar-athletes who fell for the charms of a gifted but morally compromised Zuckerberg.

    Well, it turns out the Winklevosses had some legal troubles of their own.

    In the spring of 2005, after graduating from Harvard, the brothers were allegedly evicted by their landlord from a $4,600 per month apartment they had rented in Cambridge.

    Their alleged transgressions? 

    Failure to pay rent, a series of complaints about partying and noise, and an arrest after a fight in which Cameron allegedly attacked Tyler with a hammer.

    Regatta RiverviewMonths after the eviction, moreover, the owners of the apartment complex that booted the brothers out, the Regatta Riverview, sued them for intentionally attempting to damage its reputation.

    The suit, obtained by Business Insider, alleges that, after their eviction, Cameron and Tyler took revenge on the Regatta Riverview by acquiring several Web domains that resembled Regatta's – including regattaboston.org and regattaboston.net – and posting "false, misleading, and defamatory" statements about the apartment complex on those sites.

    The suit also alleges that the brothers bought ads from Google and other search companies to direct traffic to these sites.

    Two days after Regatta filed the lawsuit, the Winklevosses settled it. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

    Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss declined to comment for this article.

    It's not news that college students and recent grads – including Mark Zuckerberg – act stupidly sometimes.  But it's now harder for the Winklevosses to lay claim to the moral high ground.

    We've excerpted some details from Regatta's lawsuit below. Obviously this document only represents one side of the story.

    A few months after graduating from Harvard, the Winklevoss brothers rented a luxury penthouse in Cambridge--for $4600 a month



    A year after graduating, the twins were the subjects of several late night/early morning noise complaints



    At one point, police arrested Cameron Winklevoss for assaulting his brother. No charges were filed



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    ConnectU founders Tyler Winklevoss, left, and Cameron Winklevoss, right, who are twin brothers, and Divya NarendraThe Social Networkthe movie about the founding of Facebook coming out October 1 – ends by suggesting that Facebook paid Harvard grads Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss $65 million to stop saying Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook. (Back story here.)

    According to documents viewed by Business Insider, this figure is wrong – by half.

    When Facebook settled with the Winklevoss brothers, their father, and business partner Divvya Narendra back in February 2008, it handed them $20 million in cash and 1.253 million shares in Facebook common stock.

    On Sharespost, a market for private company stock, investors are currently bidding  ~$75 per share for Facebook common stock. That price suggests the settlement is currently worth around $120 million.

    Even that sum isn't enough for the Winklevoss brothers, however.

    Alleging that Facebook misled them on the valuation of the company during settlement talks, the pair plan to sue Facebook again. If they win that suit, securities law dictates that Facebook will have to quadruple its payout – to an astounding $475 million.

    Facebook declined to comment on this story.

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  • 09/26/10--08:05: Is The Facebook Movie Real?
  • 0 0

    winklevoss brothers harvard

    The Social Network – still number one at the box office – tells a tale  of Facebook's founding that is slanted against the company's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

    But even so, the movie is missing at least one minor scandal.

    During the summer of 2004, months after the Winklevoss brothers first accused Mark of stealing their idea for a social network, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into – or at least, bragged about hacking into – the Winklevosses' answer to Facebook, a social network called ConnectU.

    Once inside, Mark exploited a flaw in ConnectU's code to create a fake profile for one of the brothers, tampered with real user accounts, and deleted some accounts entirely.

    We've told parts of this story before, but this version includes new details.

    "ConnectU," you may recall, was the social network that the Winklevoss brothers hired Mark Zuckerberg to build in the fall of 2003. While telling the brothers he was working on the project, Mark immediately set about building Facebook instead. When Mark launched Facebook in January, 2004, he had a several-month headstart over the Winklevosses. The brothers did not manage to launch their own social network, ConnectU, until later that spring.

    At one point during the summer of 2004, according to documents viewed by Business Insider, Mark told friends he had exploited a flaw in ConnectU's account verification process to create a fake Cameron Winklevoss account with a fake Harvard.edu email address.

    Zuckerberg showed off the new, fake profile, he said he created. Here's what he said it looked like:

    Hometown: “I’m f---ing privileged…where do you think I’m from?"

    High School: You’re not even allowed to speak its name. Personal info.

    I’m looking for: Women.

    Interested in: Action tonight.

    Ethnicity: Better than you.

    Height: 7’4”.

    Body type: Athletic.  

    Hair color: Ayran Blond.

    Eye Color: Sky blue.

    Smoke: No.

    Drink: Socially.

    Favorite music: The sound of myself masturbating.

    Favorite Movie: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

    Favorite quote: “Homeless people are worth their weight in paper clips – I hate black people."

    Athletics: I can pull a 2K in 2 minutes and 36 seconds.

    Languages: WASP-y.  

    Instruments: Music gets in the way of hearing my voice.  

    Clubs: My dad got me into the porcelain.

    Interests: Trying to find my penis. Squandering my father’s money. Looking like a douchebag.

    About me: Gotta love my shit-eating grin.

    Next, Mark told a friend he logged into the accounts of some ConnectU users and changed their privacy settings to invisible.  In an IM, Mark explained his idea was to make it harder for ConnectU users to find their friends on the site, thus reducing its utility.

    Later, Mark told a friend he'd gone a step further, deactivating about 20 ConnectU accounts entirely.

    It is not clear how Mark accessed these accounts. (In an earlier hack of the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson editors, he used login information stored in Facebook's servers.)  It does appear that he retained access to ConnectU's servers for quite some time.

    The Social Network generally paints Zuckerberg negatively – casting him as a villian and Eduardo Saverin as a victim. We think this paints a skewed picture of what actually happened. But there certainly were some scandals during Facebook's founding.

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    Cameron Winklevoss at Endless Summer

    You've read the news everywhere: Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are suing Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg again.

    The basic allegation remains the same. They say Zuckerberg unfairly cut them out of an ownership stake in Facebook. (Back story here.)

    Now, in an ironic turn, we've learned that there's another player in this drama who alleges that the Winklevoss brothers did a very similar thing to him.

    His name is Wayne Chang.

    In a suit filed late last year, Chang says the Winklevoss brothers merged their company, ConnectU, with Chang's Web development business to create a new company, The Winklevoss Chang Group (WCG).

    Chang's complaint says that though the Winklevosses "expressly agreed that the litigation between ConnectU and Facebook was an asset of ConnectU and an asset of WCG," he never got any of the millions of dollars the Winklevoss brothers got when the sold ConnectU to Facebook as part of their settlement with Mark Zuckerberg.

    Delightfully, Chang's complaint even includes an instant messenger conversation between him and Cameron Winklevoss.

    Chang is also suing the Winklevoss twins' business partner, Divya Narendra, and their father, Howard Winklevoss



    Chang says that the WInklevosses created a new company with him, and merged ConnectU's assets – including its lawsuit with Facebook – into it.



    Chang says he was not involved in ConnectU's settlement talks with Facebook



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    winklevoss

    The Winklevoss twins' irrational crusade against Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook is not over.

    The twins plan to double down on their fight in 2011, willing to risk throwing away the $65 million settlement they received in 2004 (which is now worth $100+ million).

    The settlement was $20 million in cash, and $45 million in stock. The twins say Facebook deceived them about the value of the stock, thus giving them too few shares. They want to go to court to get the proper valuation on the stock.

    To do so, they have to scrap the original settlement, and take a chance at getting a better payout.

    Why are they still fighting this fight? Over the ridiculous idea of "principle."

    "The principle is that they didn’t fight fair," Tyler Winklevoss tells the New York Times. He adds, "The principle is that Mark stole the idea."

    That's B.S.

    It's also hypocritical.

    The Winklevosses voluntarily signed the settlement agreement, and Facebook's success has made them centi-millionaires. Now they want more. So they want to revoke the settlement agreement they voluntarily signed -- and, in so doing, go back on their word.

    So the Winklevosses only fall back on "principle" when it suits them.

    The truth of the matter is this is all about money.  And thanks to Facebook's success, the Winklevosses have already gotten vastly more than they deserve.

    The Winklevii say the $40 million in stock they received should be worth $500 million today, but Facebook gave them a bogus valuation in the 2004 settlement.

    So instead, it's closer in value to $120 million.

    Remarkably, the Winklevosses still appear to think that everything that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have achieved is because of them. This is beyond delusional. It's megalo-maniacal.

    These are Harvard graduates and Olympic athletes we're talking about. And they're wasting their lives trying to claim credit for something they had next to nothing to do with.

    As the 9,000 Groupon clones, and hundreds of Facebook clones have demonstrated, ideas are a dime-a-dozen. It's execution that counts. Mark Zuckerberg executed. The Winklevosses didn't. And they've already been paid $120 milion for their failure, which is more than the vast majority of entrepreneurs will ever get.

    Does anyone on this planet think the Winklevosses could have gotten a $120 million exit for their idea, ConnectU, if they had run it instead of Mark Zuckerberg?

    The answer to that question, apparently, is "yes." There are two people that think that: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.

    They tell the Times Zuckerberg has done little more than "not screwing up" Facebook. They "absolutely" think they could have made ConnectU into Facebook with hundreds of millions of users.

    What an arrogant, silly, statement.

    As Mark Zuckerberg's character in The Social Network says to Winklevoss characters, "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook you'd have invented Facebook."

    If the Winklevosses had had any of Mark Zuckerberg's talent or vision, they could have built ConnectU into a beast that killed Facebook. After all, Facebook only had a slight head start.

    But, they didn't.

    Move on boys. This is beyond pathetic.

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    Winklevosses Cheeks

    Facebook and the infamous Winklevoss twins are back in court today.

    Confused? Thought this thing was over already?

    Here's a ~100 word summary of how we got here:

    The Winklevosses hired Zuckerberg to create a site. Zuckerberg stalled, and built Facebook instead.

    The Winklevosses sued.

    All parties settled and agreed the Winklevosses would get 1.25 million Facebook shares and $20 million cash.

    The Winklevosses thought they were getting stock worth $35.90/share, because that's what Microsoft paid for 1.6% of Facebook.

    But Microsoft bought preferred shares.  The Winklevosses got common stock, valued at $8.88 per share.

    The Winklevosses say Facebook did not make this distinction clear.

    Facebook says the Winklevosses should have asked.

    Now the Winklevosses want a San Francisco appeals court to do undo the settlement.

    Today, Facebook lawyers will ask the appeals court to throw out the case.

    So now what?

    IF FACEBOOK WINS: The Winklevosses will walk away with Facebook stock worth between $30 million and $82 million, as well as $20 million cash.

    IF THE WINKLEVOSSES WIN: The court will throw out the settlement and we're back to square one.

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    winklevoss twins

    A US court ruling says the Winklevoss twins cannot undo the settlement they made with Facebook back in 2004.

    The settlement netted the Winklevii $20 million in cash and 1.25 million Facebook shares valued at $8.88 per share. Today that's worth north of $100 million.

    But it's not enough for the Winklevii, because they believe they were misled about value of those shares.

    They wanted the settlement to be torn up so they could sue Facebook all over again and get the proper price for the shares.

    Apparently they can't do that. And they'll just have to deal with getting over hundred million for doing almost nothing while Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook into a global force.

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    This is the story of how, in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson reporters using data obtained from TheFacebook.com's logs. The details are drawn from a broader investigation of the origins of Facebook, the sourcing of which is described here.

    Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg now runs a site that 400 million people visit each month.

    But back in May 2004, he was a 19-year-old finishing up his sophomore year at Harvard.

    He was also the acclaimed founder and creator of an increasingly popular Web site called TheFacebook.com, which had launched in February 2004.

    As we've reported in detail in a separate story, the launch of TheFacebook.com was not without controversy. Just six days after the site launched, three Harvard seniors, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, accused Mark of intentionally misleading them into believing he would help them build a social network called HarvardConnection.com, while he was instead using their ideas to build a competing product.

    After Mark launched TheFacebook.com, Cameron, Tyler and Divya hired a series of developers to build HarvardConnection -- the site Mark Zuckerberg had told them he would build but did not. By mid-May, the trio had a site ready for launch. By then the site's name had changed from HarvardConnection to ConnectU.

    Sometime during the 14 days leading up to May 28 -- the editors at Harvard's student newspaper, the Crimson, received an email in the their "tips" inbox from Cameron Winklevoss, one of the founders of ConnectU.

    This email presented the argument Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divvya Narenda had already brought to Harvard's Administration Board and to Mark Zuckerberg -- that TheFacebook.com was the product of Mark Zuckerberg's fraud against the ConnectU team.

    Since the Winklevoss brothers were best known at Harvard for being exceptional rowers, the story was assigned to Crimson sports writer Tim McGinn. After a phone call, Tim hosted Tyler, Cameron, and Divya in his office at the Crimson. The four of them went over emails between Cameron and Mark.

    After the ConnectU team left, the Crimson invited Mark into its offices to defend himself. 

    When Mark arrived at the Crimson, he asked Tim and Elisabeth Theodore, an editor helping with the story, to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that he could show them the work he'd done on HarvardConnection. Per Crimson policy, Tim and Elisabeth refused to sign the NDA.

    harvard crimson buildingMark lingered around the office, evidently hoping they would change their mind. Finally, Mark agreed to forgo the NDA.

    On a Crimson computer, Mark brought up what he described as the work he did on HarvardConnection.  He gave Tim and Elisabeth a guided tour of the site. Mark's goal seemed to have been to show Tim and Elizabeth, the Crimson reporter and editor, that, other than the ways in which social networks are all the same, there were no features or designs in the work he did on HarvardConnection.com that ended up in theFacebook.com.

    Mark's demonstration was successful: After he left, the Crimson decided not to run a story.  Tim emailed Tyler, Cameron, and Divya to tell them that the story would not run. He contacted Mark to say the the same thing.

    But then, perhaps a day or so later, the Winklevoss brothers reached out to Tim McGinn again, this time to tell him that another Harvard rower -- one named John Thomson -- had told them that Mark had stolen something for TheFacebook from him, too. They told Tim that John's claim was that Mark Zuckerberg stole from him the idea for a TheFacebook feature called "Visualize Your Buddy." 

    With a new accusation at hand, the Crimson decided to re-open its investigation.  Tim McGinn called Mark and told him about about John's claim and gave him a chance to deny it. Mark denied the claim and got very upset -- apparently because he felt he had been promised there would be no story.

    For the rest of that night and into the next morning, Tim and his editor Elisabeth Theodore attempted to follow-up with John Thomson. After they finally reached him, John told them that he made the whole Mark Zuckerberg anecdote up in order to impress the Winklevoss brothers, who were important members of the rowing team. [As an aside, kudos to the journalism at the Crimson!]

    Tim and Elisabeth decided to drop John's claims from the story. But, this time, they decided to go ahead and publish a story on ConnectU's claims against Facebook.

    Mark Zuckerberg was not content to wait until the morning to find out if the Crimson would include John's accusations in its story.

    Instead, he decided to access the email accounts of Crimson editors and review their emails.  How did he do this?  Here's how Mark described his hack to a friend:

    Mark used his site, TheFacebook.com, to look up members of the site who identified themselves as members of the Crimson.  Then he examined a log of failed logins to see if any of the Crimson members had ever entered an incorrect password into TheFacebook.com.  If the cases in which they had entered failed logins, Mark tried to use them to access the Crimson members' Harvard email accounts.  He successfully accessed two of them.

    In other words, Mark appears to have used private login data from TheFacebook to hack into the separate email accounts of some TheFacebook users.

    In one account he accessed, Mark saw an email from Crimson writer Tim McGinn to Cameron, Tyler, and Divya. Another email Mark read was this one, from Crimson managing editor Elisabeth Theodore to Tim McGinn:

    From: Elisabeth Susan Theodore
    To: Timothy John McGinn
    Subject: Re: Follow-up

    OK, he did seem very sleazy. And I thought that some of his answers to the questions were not very direct or open. I also thought that his reactiont o the website was very very weird. But, even if it's true so what? It's an [redacted] thing ot od but it's not illegal, right?

    We reached out to Tim McGinn and Elisabeth Theodore for comment.  Both declined to comment.

    When we reviewed the details of this story with Facebook, the company had this comment:

    "We’re not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook’s early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook's growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people."

    We're certainly not questioning the latter fact: Facebook's success has been awe-inspiring.  Given the significant concerns about privacy online in general and at Facebook in particular, however, it seems reasonable to ask what the company's reaction -- and Mark's reaction -- is to the reported behavior above.

    In the past, Facebook has told us: "Facebook respects user privacy and access to site usage and profile information is restricted at the company. Any Facebook employees found to be engaged in improper access to user data will be disciplined or terminated."

    It is clear that the events described above would be a direct violation of Facebook's current policy, which has now been in place for several years. The policy was not in place at the time of the events described above.

    A source close to the company suggests that it was the fallout from early privacy violations like this one -- fallout that has included reputational damage to Mark Zuckerberg and expensive and prolonged litigation with ConnectU -- that has shaped Facebook's current privacy policies and made Mark the CEO he is today.

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  • 03/05/10--01:00: The Origins Of Facebook
  • Mark Zuckerberg

    The following series of stories detail some of what happened in 2003 and 2004 after then Harvard-sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched a site called theFacebook.com.  This site, of course, quickly grew into the dominant global site known as Facebook, which is now used by some 400 million people a month.

    The stories are based on a long investigation into the origins of Facebook that included interviews with more than a dozen sources familiar with aspects of what happened, as well as what we believe to be relevant IMs and emails from the period.  Much of the information has never been reported.

    The stories detail some troubling behavior by Facebook's then 19-year old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, including using members' Facebook login information to break into members' private email accounts and hacking into a competitor's site and changing user profiles. 

    A source close to the company suggests that the fallout from this behavior has played a profound role in shaping Facebook's current privacy policies and Mark's current attitudes and conduct as a now 25-year old CEO.  One can only hope so.

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    ConnectU Founders

    This is the story of how, in the summer of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into a Facebook rival called ConnectU, whose founders had accused him of stealing their idea to build Facebook.  The details of this story were developed from a broader investigation of the origins of Facebook.  The investigation included interviews with more than a dozen sources over two years, as well as what we believe to be relevant IMs and emails from the period.

    During the summer of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg's new social network theFacebook.com was already wildly popular.

    After Mark launched it in February, the site dominated the conversation at Harvard all spring.  It reached 250,000 users by the end of August and a million users that fall.

    TheFacebook.com was so popular that one thing Mark probably never needed to worry about was competition from the other social network launched at Harvard in 2004, ConnectU, whose founders had accused him of stealing their idea.

    ConnectU's founders -- Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra -- had launched the site that spring at 15 schools. But it never gained anywhere close to the critical mass of user adoption that Facebook did. Today, 400 million people visit Facebook each month while ConnectU exists only in the Internet archives.

    Nevertheless, during 2004, Mark Zuckerberg still appeared to be obsessed with ConnectU. Specifically, he appears to have hacked into ConnectU's site and made changes to multiple user profiles, including Cameron Winklevoss's.

    At one point, Mark appears to have exploited a flaw in ConnectU's account verification process to create a fake Cameron Winklevoss account with a fake Harvard.edu email address.

    In this new, fake profile, he listed Cameron's height as 7'4", his hair color as "Ayran Blond," and his eye color as "Sky Blue." He listed Cameron's "language" as "WASP-y."

    Next, Mark appears to have logged into the accounts of some ConnectU users and changed their privacy settings to invisible.  The idea here was apparently to make it harder for people to find friends on ConnectU, thus reducing its utility.   Eventually, Mark appears to have gone a step further, deactivating about 20 ConnectU accounts entirely.

    Mark appeared to be worried about the risk of his actions, but reasoned that ConnectU's developers wouldn't notice a succession of account deactivations coming from the same IP address. He took comfort that Apache logs didn't reveal that type of activity either. Mark also figured that if ConnectU developers did notice anything, their most natural conclusion would be to think that someone had emailed people convincing them to deactivate their accounts.

    It is not clear how Mark accessed these accounts. (In an earlier hack of the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson editors, he used login information stored in Facebook's servers.)  It does appear that he retained access to ConnectU's servers for quite some time.

    When we reviewed the details of this story with Facebook, the company had this comment:

    "We’re not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook’s early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook's growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people."

    We're certainly not questioning the latter fact: Facebook's success -- and Mark's role in it -- have been awe-inspiring. 

    Given the significant concerns about online privacy and ethics, however, it seems reasonable to ask what the company's reaction -- and Mark's current reaction -- is to the reported behavior above.

    A source close to the company suggests that it was the fallout from early behavior like this -- fallout that has included reputational damage to Mark Zuckerberg and expensive and prolonged litigation with ConnectU -- that has shaped Facebook's current privacy policies.  We imagine -- or at least hope -- that these searing early mistakes have also a profound influence on the now 25-year-old Mark Zuckerberg.

     

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    young zuck

    The origins of Facebook have been in dispute since the very week a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg launched the site as a Harvard sophomore on February 4, 2004. 

    Then called "thefacebook.com," the site was an instant hit. Now, six years later, the site has become one of the biggest web sites in the world, visited by 400 million people a month.

    The controversy surrounding Facebook began quickly. A week after he launched the site in 2004, Mark was accused by three Harvard seniors of having stolen the idea from them. 

    This allegation soon bloomed into a full-fledged lawsuit, as a competing company founded by the Harvard seniors sued Mark and Facebook for theft and fraud, starting a legal odyssey that continues to this day.

    New information uncovered by Silicon Alley Insider suggests that some of the complaints against Mark Zuckerberg are valid. It also suggests that, on at least one occasion in 2004, Mark used private login data taken from Facebook's servers to break into Facebook members' private email accounts and read their emails— at best, a gross misuse of private information. Lastly, it suggests that Mark hacked into the competing company's systems and changed some user information with the aim of making the site less useful.

    The primary dispute around Facebook's origins centered around whether Mark had entered into an "agreement" with the Harvard seniors, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and a classmate named Divya Narendra, to develop a similar web site for them — and then, instead, stalled their project while taking their idea and building his own.

    The litigation never went particularly well for the Winklevosses.

    In 2007, Massachusetts Judge Douglas P. Woodlock called their allegations "tissue thin." Referring to the  agreement that Mark had allegedly breached, Woodlock also wrote, "Dorm room chit-chat does not make a contract." A year later, the end finally seemed in sight: a judge ruled against Facebook's move to dismiss the case. Shortly thereafter, the parties agreed to settle.

    But then, a twist.

    After Facebook announced the settlement, but before the settlement was finalized, lawyers for the Winklevosses suggested that the hard drive from Mark Zuckerberg's computer at Harvard might contain evidence of Mark's fraud. Specifically, they suggested that the hard drive included some damning instant messages and emails.

    The judge in the case refused to look at the hard drive and instead deferred to another judge who went on to approve the settlement. But, naturally, the possibility that the hard drive contained additional evidence set inquiring minds wondering what those emails and IMs revealed.  Specifically, it set inquiring minds wondering again whether Mark had, in fact, stolen the Winklevoss's idea, screwed them over, and then ridden off into the sunset with Facebook.

    Unfortunately, since the contents of Mark's hard drive had not been made public, no one had the answers.

    But now we have some.

    Over the past two years, we have interviewed more than a dozen sources familiar with aspects of this story — including people involved in the founding year of the company. We have also reviewed what we believe to be some relevant IMs and emails from the period.  Much of this information has never before been made public.  None of it has been confirmed or authenticated by Mark or the company.

    Based on the information we obtained, we have what we believe is a more complete picture of how Facebook was founded.  This account follows.

    And what does this more complete story reveal?

    We'll offer our own conclusions at the end.  But first, here's the story:

    "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.

    winklevoss twinsIt 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 an early evening in late November 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 skeptical 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. 



    "They made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them."

    Former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel gets a lot of credit for being the first investor in Facebook, because he led the first formal Facebook round in September of 2004 with a $500,000 investment at a $5 million valuation.  But the real "first investor" claim to fame should actually belong to a Harvard classmate of Mark Zuckerberg's named Eduardo Saverin.

    To picture Eduardo, what you need to know is that he was the kid at Harvard who would wear a suit to class. He liked to give people the impression that he was rich — and maybe somehow connected to the Brazilian mafia.  At one point, in an IM exchange, Mark told a friend that Eduardo — "head of the investment society"— was rich because "apparently insider trading isn't illegal in Brazil."

    Eduardo Saverin wasn't directly involved with Facebook for long: During the summer of 2004, when Mark moved to Palo Alto to work on Facebook full time, Eduardo took a high-paying internship at Lehman Brothers in New York.  While Mark was still at Harvard, however, Eduardo appears to have bankrolled Facebook's earliest capital expenses, thus becoming its initial investor.

    In January, however, Mark told a friend that "Eduardo is paying for my servers." Eventually, Eduardo would agree to invest $15,000 in a company that would, in April 2004, be formed as Facebook LLC.  For his money, Eduardo would get 30% of the company.

    Eduardo was also involved in Facebook's earliest days, as a confidant of Mark Zuckerberg.

    In December, 2003, a week after Mark's first meeting with the HarvardConnection team, when he was telling the Winklevosses that he was too busy with schoolwork to work on or even think about HarvardConnection.com, Mark was telling Eduardo a different story.  On December 7, 2003, we believe Mark sent Eduardo the following IM:

    Check this site out: www.harvardconnection.com and then go to harvardconnection.com/datehome.php. Someone is already trying to make a dating site. But they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I'm like delaying it so it won't be ready until after the facebook thing comes out.

    This IM suggests that, within a week of meeting with the Winklevosses for the first time, Mark had already decided to start his own, similar project--"the facebook thing."  It also suggests that he had developed a strategy for dealing with his would-be competition: Delay developing it.



    "I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I'm supposed to have their thing ready and then be like look yours isn't as good"

    A few weeks after the initial meeting with the HarvardConnection team, after Mark sent the IM to Eduardo Saverin talking about developing "the facebook thing" and delaying his development of HarvardConnection, Mark met with the HarvardConnection folks, Cameron, Tyler, and Divya, for a second time. 

    This time, instead of meeting in the dining hall of Mark's residential hall, Kirkland House, the four met in Mark's dorm room. Divya is said to have arrived late.

    In Kirkland House, the dorm rooms aren't laid out in cinder-block-cube style: Mark's room had a narrow hallway connecting it to his neighbor's. As Cameron and Tyler sat down on a couch in Mark's room, Cameron spotted something in the hallway. On top of a bookshelf there was a white board. It was the kind Web developers and product managers everywhere use to map out their ideas.

    On it, Cameron read two words, "Harvard Connection." He got up to go look at it. Immediately, Mark asked Cameron to stay out of the hallway.

    Eventually Divya arrived and the four of them talked about plans for Harvard Connection. One feature Mark brought up was designed to keep more popular and sought-after Harvard Connection users from being stalked and harassed by crowds of people.

    In this second meeting, Mark still appeared to be actively engaged in developing Harvard Connection.  But he never showed the HarvardConnection folks any site prototypes or code.  And they didn't insist on seeing them.

    During the weeks in which Mark was juggling the two projects in tandem, he also had a series of IM exchanges with a friend named Adam D'Angelo (above).

    Adam and Mark went to boarding school together at Phillips Exeter Academy. There, the pair became friends and coding partners. Together they built a program called Synapse, a music player that supposedly learned the listener's taste and then adapted to it. Then, in 2002 Mark went to Harvard and Adam went to Cal Tech.  But the pair stayed in close touch, especially through AOL instant messenger. Eventually, Adam became Facebook's CTO.

    Harvard Yard at WinterThrough the Harvard Connection-Facebook saga and its aftermath, Mark kept Adam apprised of his plans and thoughts.

    One purported IM exchange seems particularly relevant on the question of how Mark distinguished between the two projects--the "facebook thing" and "the dating site"--as well as how he was considering handling the latter:

    Zuck: So you know how I'm making that dating site

    Zuck: I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing

    Zuck: Because they're probably going to be released around the same time

    Zuck: Unless I fuck the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I'd have it done.

    D'Angelo: haha

    Zuck: Like I don't think people would sign up for the facebook thing if they knew it was for dating

    Zuck: and I think people are skeptical about joining dating things too.

    Zuck: But the guy doing the dating thing is going to promote it pretty well.

    Zuck: I wonder what the ideal solution is.

    Zuck: I think the Facebook thing by itself would draw many people, unless it were released at the same time as the dating thing.

    Zuck: In which case both things would cancel each other out and nothing would win. Any ideas? Like is there a good way to consolidate the two.

    D'Angelo: We could make it into a whole network like a friendster. haha. Stanford has something like that internally

    Zuck: Well I was thinking of doing that for the facebook. The only thing that's different about theirs is that you like request dates with people or connections with the facebook you don't do that via the system.

    D'Angelo: Yeah

    Zuck: I also hate the fact that I'm doing it for other people haha. Like I hate working under other people. I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I'm supposed to have their thing ready and then be like "look yours isn't as good as this so if you want to join mine you can…otherwise I can help you with yours later." Or do you think that's too dick?

    D'Angelo: I think you should just ditch them

    Zuck: The thing is they have a programmer who could finish their thing and they have money to pour into advertising and stuff. Oh wait I have money too. My friend who wants to sponsor this is head of the investment society. Apparently insider trading isn't illegal in Brazil so he's rich lol.

    D'Angelo: lol



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    In a series of posts on Friday, we shed new light on what really happened when Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at Harvard in 2003 and 2004.

    We reported:

    Today, we went on Bloomberg Television to talk about it:

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