The Diaries of Facebook's Founder

Primary sources exposed and explained.
Nov. 30 2007 6:36 PM

The Diaries of Facebook's Founder

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Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old founder and chief executive of Facebook, launched the phenomenally successful social-networking site while he was a sophomore at Harvard. Facebook's forerunner was the somewhat more risqué  Facemash, a Harvard version of Hot or Not. Facemash paired random pictures of Harvard undergraduates and invited users to vote on who was more attractive. Setting up Facemash required Zuckerberg to hack into protected areas of Harvard's computer network so he could copy and incorporate dormitory ID images from Harvard's Kirkland, Eliot, and Lowell houses. In response, Harvard's disciplinary administrative board placed Zuckerberg on academic probation.

While he was assembling Facemash, Zuckerberg kept an online journal, and like most college students, he didn't think very hard about who might end up reading it. Now a full-fledged tycoon, Zuckerberg has long since taken his journal offline. But a choice excerpt has been repatriated to the Web by 02138, a magazine directed at Harvard alumni. In the journal (see below and Page 2), Zuckerberg calls one fellow student (name redacted by Slate) a "bitch," admits he's "a little intoxicated," and ponders whether he should pair certain photographs from the Kirkland House facebook with "pictures of farm animals." Then he gets to work procuring online copies of student photos: "Let the hacking begin."

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This and other documents potentially embarrassing to Zuckerberg that 02138 has also posted online form the basis of an article by Luke O'Brien titled "Poking Facebook" in 02138's November/December issue. Facebook has filed two court motions to compel 02138 to remove the documents from its Web site. "If you're interested," advises executive editor Richard Bradley, "read these things now."

O'Brien's piece focuses on a lawsuit filed against Zuckerberg by founders of the rival site ConnectU. In the lawsuit, ConnectU's three founders allege that Zuckerberg stole programming codes from their site to create Facebook. The ConnectU founders were seniors at Harvard when Zuckerberg was a sophomore, and they approached him to work on the project with them. Zuckerberg spent some time on it but never completed the work. Instead, he launched Facebook. In a petition to Harvard's administrative board, the three upperclassmen alleged that Zuckerberg stalled them while he incorporated their ideas into Facebook. Zuckerberg replied to this accusation with indignation (Pages 3-5), stating at one point, "I don't have much time to spend fending off peoples' claims to work which is clearly my own." The "ad" board ruled in Zuckerberg's favor. In a deposition for the ConnectU lawsuit (Page 6), Zuckerberg credits an editorial in the Harvard Crimson with inspiring him to develop Facebook's privacy controls.

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