Read: The thrilling Facebook creation myth
Facebook’s origin story, as portrayed by my book and the movie, is well known. Late one night after a date gone bad, Zuckerberg made a website, FaceMash, which allowed his fellow Harvard students to compare female classmates based on photos he pulled from various dorm registries. When the prank site reached the attention of the Harvard administration, Zuckerberg was nearly kicked out of school for “breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy.” Though he managed to avoid any substantial punishment, he was written up in The Harvard Crimson, where he caught the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the 6-foot-5-inch identical-twin Olympic rowers who couldn’t have been more perfect foils if they’d actually been invented whole-cloth out of Aaron Sorkin’s fevered imagination.
The twins were building their own social website, HarvardConnection, which later morphed into ConnectU, and were in the market for a coder. They reached out to Zuckerberg, who readily agreed to work for them. It was around that time that Zuckerberg went to his friend and classmate Eduardo Saverin and pitched him on an idea to create a new website, a place where people could connect, putting up their own profiles—a site that wouldn’t get him nearly kicked out of school. He asked Saverin to fund the endeavor; Saverin offered up $1,000, the most prescient investment in the history of the world, in exchange for the title of CFO and 30 percent of the company.
Weeks later, in February of 2004, after stalling Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss with a series of emails claiming he was too busy with classwork to finish their coding, Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook.com, which rapidly grew into a phenomenon. Zuckerberg ended up in California, where he met up with Sean Parker—and Eduardo Saverin, too, quickly found himself cut out of the story, his name erased from the Facebook masthead, his shares in the company diluted away.
Read: Sean Parker’s lasting influence on Facebook explained
The first few months of Facebook’s existence already offered plenty of candidates for the tail end of my subtitle. But the personal, dorm-room story was only one component of a much larger drama, still being played out on a global scale.
From the very beginning, Facebook wasn’t supposed to be just another social network—it was supposed to be a social revolution. Zuckerberg had never cared about making money with the site; in high school, he’d turned down a lucrative offer for software he’d developed, instead giving it away for free. As much as Saverin had pushed for Zuckerberg to figure out ways to monetize Facebook, Zuckerberg had never made that a priority. Instead, Facebook was supposed to be something “cool,” something that changed the world by changing how we interacted with one another. Facebook wasn’t some site you visited—it was a place where you lived. By sharing yourself among intersecting circles of friends, family, and colleagues, you became connected to an ever-growing village. The more you shared, the more connections could be made. Consequently, the less you protected your data, the better Facebook functioned, and the more powerful the revolution.