Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The early years of Facebook, full of conflict

Facebook still controls the social media platform for more than a decade. Cited from Ourworldindata.org, at the end of 2019 Facebook has 2.3 billion users. YouTube, Instagram, and WeChat followed by more than one billion users. Tumblr and TikTok are behind it, with more than half a billion users.

Behind the success of the site, Mark Zuckerberg, the figure behind the discovery of the most popular social media platform in the world turned out to face conflicts when it was created. When it was launched in 2004, Zuckerberg had often dealt with laws regarding Facebook's copyright.

Competition between Harvard University students

Mark Zuckerberg is not the only Harvard student who exploits the potential of the web to gather people together. "Networking is a favorite practice at Harvard," said Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard at the time.

Inspired by Friendster's success, Zuckerberg launched Facemash.com in 2003. He secretly hacked campus data and downloaded his student profile photos to be uploaded on Facemash. The campus tracked it down and blocked access to the site because it violated privacy.

Ten months before Facemash opened, another student Divya Narendra came up with the idea of creating a social networking site aimed at connecting students on the campus. He teamed up with his partner to fund the project, the twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss who are later known as the Harvard Connection trio.

The three of them heard the Facemash site and were impressed by Zuckerberg's programming skills. Then they invited Zuckerberg to work on the project named Harvard Connection. Initially, Zuckerberg agreed but was lost in the middle of the project because he was working on his own project.

While pretending to do programming for Harvard Connection, Zuckerberg and his roommate Eduardo Saverin put their minds into developing Facebook. They isolate themselves and spend dedicated time on this project. Finally, Facebook was launched on 4 February 2004.

Facebook site suddenly weakened after successfully attracting 4,000 subscribers in the first two weeks. Realizing they needed help, they invited Zuckerberg's other roommate Dustin Moskovitz to join. The shares were currently 65% for Zuckerberg, 30% Saverin, and 5% for Moskovitz.

Zuckerberg also recruited several other friends to complete his team, then on April 13, 2004, he submitted a company registration. Hearing this, the trio of Harvard Connection was furious. They accused Zuckerberg of violating the campus code of ethics and reported it directly to President Summers.

The members of the Harvard Connection not only accused Zuckerberg of stealing ideas but deliberately stalled by pretending to work for them so he could work on his own projects. "Zuckerberg only boasted about completing Facebook in a week, after three months of abusing us," said Cameron Winklevoss.

Not the only competitor

The Harvard Connection trio is not the only one who feels Zuckerberg has stolen their idea. Back in September 2003, a month before Zuckerberg launched Facemash, a Harvard third-grader named Aaron Greenspan launched a networking site for students on the campus. However, this site was banned because it was considered to violate privacy because of posting the names and addresses of students.

Greenspan then revised the site and relaunched it with a section he called Facebook. This site is less popular because of only a few subscribers. Then, Greenspan heard that there was another student who created the site by hacking into university data to be uploaded to his site, of course, the student was Zuckerberg.

Greenspan and Zuckerberg then arranged a meeting and they told each other about their project. At that time Zuckerberg informed that he was preparing a secret project. Greenspan offered his site, Facebook to be part of Zuckerberg's secret project, but Zuckerberg refused.

Initially, Zuckerberg offered Greenspan to be involved in the secret project but was rejected. Greenspan felt he did not comfortable with the personality shown by Zuckerberg. Feeling still in need of help, at the beginning of the Facebook launch, Zuckerberg still contacted Greenspan to ask for advice on the details of the operation of the site.

However, Zuckerberg does not consider Greenspan as part of the development of Facebook. When Facebook began to look promising, Greenspan claimed to 'lose' even applying to become one of Facebook's programmers.

"We are looking for someone with 10-15 years of programming experience," Zuckerberg told Greenspan. The person who first introduced the word Facebook at Harvard did not even get a place on Facebook.

*Cited from “Facebook, Situs Social Networking Bernilai 15 Miliar Dolar”, Bentang Pustaka, 2009.

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